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Science club students help clear Willow Creek debris

Mike Kearney with Blackhawk residents Assn reaches through some vines clean up garbage along Willow Creek ElgSaturday. September 15 2012.

Mike Kearney, with the Blackhawk residents Assn, reaches through some vines to clean up garbage along Willow Creek in Elgin Saturday. September 15, 2012. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:33AM

Television sets, rubber tires, glass bottles, and a refrigerator door were pulled from Willow Creek in Elgin Saturday morning, as part of a volunteer initiative that united area residents, members of the Izaak Walton League, and students from Ellis Middle School in Elgin.

“We found a bunch of junk all over the creek from garbage people dumped in,” said Rachel Phimmavong, a seventh-grader at Ellis Middle School. “I think people don’t realize what they’re doing is harming other living things, and we should take action.”

Toward that goal, some 23 volunteers from the school and more than 30 from the Isaak Walton League and community came together to clear clutter from the water.

An engine, too heavy to be removed, was left behind. But a hot water heater, toilet, and styrofoam objects were picked up, bagged and placed in a dumpster, freeing the water to run freely through the creek, explained Streamwood resident Tim Elenz.

“It takes so little from the community, a couple hours, a couple times a year, to make such a big difference,” said Elenz, whose son Anthony, 5, is the youngest member of Isaak Walton League. “The creek is now flowing so much better.”

John Ziegler, a trustee of the Isaak Walton League home corporation and board member of the local chapter, said a previous cleanup effort held in the spring drew Ellis Middle School students to get involved in cleaning creeks.

Holly Yee, who took part in that effort and in today’s event, is a 7th grade science teacher at Ellis Middle School. Yee said her class committed to the creek cleanup as a kickoff to their science club.

“We doubled in size (since spring) and had an energetic group,” she said. “We collected the garbage and cleaned it up so we’ll go back in October and do our creek monitoring.”

It’s part of the grade’s exploratory science element, she said, noting the data they garner will be forwarded to Friends of the Fox River, an organization that continually assesses the river.

The creek cleanup was also the kickoff for Creek Freaks, according to Bill Jones, trustee of the Izaak Walton League home association. The initiative is designed to introduce kids ages 10-14 to the outdoors.

“It’s all about kids and getting them outside,” he said. “They love getting muddy, getting dirty and having a good time.”

Elenz also helped remove a tree that had fallen across the creek. A chainsaw was required to get through the wood, which was about two and a half feet in diameter, he said.

Ellis seventh-grader Gabriel Jaramillo said he wants to do another cleanup, and that the environmental science unit has inspired him to consider career options in chemistry. Gathering up plastic bags soaking in the creek, and other “useless stuff,” Gabriel said the lesson backed up what his class is learning in science.

“Today was a good day because we picked up a lot of useless stuff,” he said. “That’s all bad in the water because fish and other (wildlife) that live there will die. People need to know not to dump garbage in the water.”

More information about Creek Freaks is available at

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