additional reporting by Emily Ettie; video production by Drew Gumins.

Driving along Rte. 7 on Thursday morning, June 2, north of the Four Season Tennis Club, you might have seen some people in bright blue shirts cleaning up along the Norwalk River. Employees from The Nielsen Company, in partnership with the Mianus chapter of Trout Unlimited, spent the morning cleaning up trash that had accumulated by the river, as part of their company’s Global Impact Day, the one day annually that the international company shuts down all global operations for an entire day and employees devote the day to volunteering, helping serve and better the communities where they’re located.

When the people of Nielsen reached out to Trout Unlimited, an organization that seeks to preserve the Norwalk River, specifically for the benefit of the brown trout that live in it, the non-profit conservation organization was grateful to accept the help.  

“Partnering with Nielsen is a great way of getting a whole bunch of volunteers out there [on the river]. Firstly, it cleans the river, and secondly, it engages a local company, these are all people that live in this community or places around it and want to be involved in preserving the Norwalk River,” says Trout Unlimited board member Jeff Yates.

Another positive? Yates says having the clean up effort happen right next to Rte. 7 is a big advantage. “There are 30,000 people that drive by here everyday. If enough people driving by see the Nielsen shirts, see the team logo, see people picking up trash, it may make them think twice about throwing that coffee cup, or throwing that water bottle out the window, because there’s somebody who cares about this river.”

One volunteer, David Lascelle, a 10-year Nielsen employee, found there wasn’t as much pollution as he had anticipated, but says there’s still enough to be concerned about.

“When I was in elementary school, in the late 80s, we had a ‘Green Day,’ and we would pick up trash and it was everywhere. But I think since then, a lot of people are more aware, recycling, not like trashing the environment as much,” he observes.

David mentions some of the trash that he collected from the riverbank. “I found a hubcap, a bunch of beer bottles, a lot of cigarette butts, random car parts, and coffee mugs—both styrofoam and plastic.”

Another Nielsen employee, Katie Slinn, says that the team found tires and street signs, as well as old winter gloves and CD cases. “I’m glad that people care enough about it to want to pick it up and make it better.”  

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What’s so critical about cleaning up all the pollution and trash that accumulates along the Norwalk River, particularly by Rte. 7, is that it has a profound effect on local wildlife.

“There is actually a wild, spawning population of brown trout in the Norwalk River because it’s one of the healthier streams in southwest Connecticut. And over the decades and the centuries of building roads and houses, all the storm water has affected the degradation of the habitat, the loss of trees and the canopies has really impacted the river,” Yates explains.

He recommends some things that Wilton residents can do to help lessen pollution in the Norwalk River:

  • Pick up trash
  • Reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used on lawns, because almost anything that hits the ground in Wilton makes it into the Norwalk River. For example, he points to grass clippings and lawn clippings thrown into a stream creates nutrient-loading problems with nitrogen and phosphorus, which may lead to algal blooms and hypoxia situations, which could then cause closed beaches and reduced river life.
  • Disconnect roof gutters from the storm system. Yates suggest letting water from rooftops water gardens. “We have a huge issue with flash flooding on the Norwalk River and the primary reason for that is that there is so much of what they call impervious cover, hard pavement, roof, things of that nature. So when it rains, instead of soaking into the ground that water’s going into the gutter, or off parking lots, driveways, and into the storm drain, into a pipe and then directly into the river.”

For more information on Trout Unlimited and how you can help you can visit their website.