Baltimore’s Inner Harbor doesn’t only host aquatic life—it’s awash in empty bottles, bags
and wrappers. That debris eventually floats into the Atlantic Ocean, where it wreaks environmental havoc.
To prevent waste from emptying into the harbor and then the ocean, the project team
decided early on it wanted a largely self-sufficient solution. That meant marrying new
technologies with old designs. During the 19th century, waterwheels powered mills along
the city’s waterways. The team adapted the hydro-powered waterwheel design, adding
solar panels that generate enough electricity to keep conveyor belts running even when
there isn’t enough river current.
The potentially scalable clean-up project can collect 25 tons of debris every day. Completed in May 2014, the waterwheel removed 63 tons of trash from the water in its first
seven weeks of operation.
Perhaps equally of note, the project that garnered little public attention during execution has become a sightseeing destination for local stakeholders. The interest could spark
support for future projects. “None of us should ignore what it means for this many people
to be paying attention to this issue,” Michael Hankin, chairman of the Waterfront Partnership, told Baltimore Magazine.
PROJECT: Inner Harbor Water Wheel
LOCATION: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
GOAL: make the Inner Harbor
swimmable by 2020
“It looks sort of like a cross
between a spaceship and a covered
wagon and an old mill.”
—John Kellett, managing agent, Clearwater Mills LLC, to NPR