Rising river levels and water safety: Teenagers resume summer effort to get industrial junk out of the Naugatuck River

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Every summer, it’s an effort to show they care.

Teenagers from different backgrounds work together to haul heavy, old factory equipment out of the Naugatuck River. They’re part of the Waterbury PAL River Brigade. News 8 saw them back in action today using teamwork to roll a huge rusted and dented propane tank that used to belong to one of Waterbury’s old decayed factories from back in the city’s brass manufacturing hey day.

“Honestly, it feels good getting something like this out of the river,” said Giuseppe Rositani, a young Brigade member. “It’s something that should’ve been taken care of years ago.”

Different groups of kids have been at this for about four years. It was part of Mayor Neil O’Leary’s response to a massive raw sewage spill from Waterbury’s Waste Water Treatment Plant that killed scores of fish. At the time, the mayor vowed to restore the health of the river. The kids are paid for their efforts.

RELATED: Waterbury teens spend summer cleaning up Naugatuck River

This year, there is an extra emphasis on safety given the recent rising levels of state rivers that contributed to the tragedy in the Farmington River, where two teenage friends lost their lives.

Administrators of The River Brigade tell News 8 this year there is an extra emphasis on water safety. Before any teen gets in the water, they scout the river using websites that monitor water levels in Connecticut’s rivers and make inspections themselves before determining if it’s ok to go in.

They also have safety meetings with the teens before each day, as News 8 observed today.

“Safety in the water is the most important thing,” Kevin Zak, the environmental activist in charge of the program, said to the kids gathered along the river in downtown Waterbury.

“You have to know the flow.”

Zak told News 8 they would never put the kids at risk. He also says they encourage them to work together, take their time and that they are always under watchful eyes.

He also says the program has made a big difference when it comes to improving the health of the river — a river he says was so polluted, it once caught fire in Ansonia.

“This river used to be so polluted, that bacteria could not live in this river,” Zak said. “[Now] you can see all the growth. And there’s all types of fish — trout, bass.”

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