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Operation SPLASH volunteers work to keep Long Island's waterways litter-free

Volunteers with Operation SPLASH clear litter on Long Island
Volunteers with Operation SPLASH clear litter on Long Island 02:22

LONG BEACH, N.Y. -- Tuesday's heat had many people headed to the beaches, but one small army of volunteers is on the shore rain or shine, hot or cold.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports, they are working to remove tons of litter from Long Island waterways.

"We are garbologists. That's what we do. We seriously go out and pick garbage," said Scott Bochner, captain of Operation SPLASH.

Meet Long Island's volunteer garbage pickers, landing on uninhabited marshes to hunt down and remove hundreds of tons of litter every year.

It's a dirty job, in the heat and the cold, day after day, decade after decade. Operation SPLASH is on a mission.

"It's never-ending," volunteer Gary Feldman said.

"I get frustrated ... Tires, tents, children's toys, balloons, beach balls," volunteer Anastasia Schepers said.

"People just throw them down and don't think about where they're gonna end up and it's ruining this incredibly beautiful landscape," volunteer Susan Spilka said.

It may seen like a miserable chore and yet... 

"A group of nice people and we are making a difference," Feldman said.

A total of 150 volunteers on seven donor-funded boats do this every day.

Operation SPLASH is in its 32nd year, trying to get to plastic before it breaks down into tiny pieces.

"They turn to little micro-plastics, and we eat them. Fish eat them, and it's in us, so we have to stop this cycle of littering," Bochner said. "The litter goes into the storm drains and then it flushes right out into the waterways."

One solution that's used elsewhere? Storm drain netting that catches litter before it makes its way into our waterways, but cleaning that is very expensive.

"Until that's done, we will be out here," Bochner said.

"You feel like maybe you made a little dent, a little change," volunteer Ann Taub said.

The volunteers have a message to litterers.

"Who do you expect to pick it up?" Feldman said.

"It's our planet. It's our place. That's what we do," Bochner said.

Until those who litter stop doing what they do.

Operation SPLASH in 31 years has removed over 3 million pounds of garbage from our beaches, bays and wetlands. 

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