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29 electric scooters removed from Hillsborough River

In a clean-up effort organized by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Tampa Police and the FWC, all agencies joined in to remove large debris from the river.

TAMPA, Fla. — Dozens of electric scooters, bikes and other large debris were removed from the Hillsborough River Tuesday morning.

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful organized its second annual river clean-up, and the Florida Wildlife Commission and Tampa Police Department sent divers out to help above and below the water's surface. 

In total, 40 traffic cones, 29 electric scooters and five bikes were fished out of the river.

Steven Seifert helped out as a volunteer diver, who said it's no easy work hauling up water-logged electric scooters to the surface. 

"It's definitely a full-body workout out. It's time-consuming, exhausting," Seifert said. "Definitely leaves you with shortness of breath afterward and you're ready for a cheeseburger."

Seifert was one of the 11 divers helping in Tuesday's clean-up. FWC brought in four divers, while TPD had six divers. 

"Today's goal is to help Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful," David Shepler, a TPD officer and search and recovery diver, said. "We come out here, we want to make sure we can get that large debris that maybe people just don't see from the surface, like scooters, tires and shopping carts."

For over a year now, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful has been organizing these clean-up events. In that time, they've collected hundreds of electric scooters from the Hillsborough River. Now, while the issue has improved in the year they've been doing this, it still hasn't gone away.

If you're wondering who is supposed to be keeping these scooters out of the water, it's the scooter companies. The city of Tampa has contracts with the scooter companies that require them to remove their scooters from areas they do not belong -- like the bottom of the river. 

Instead, the dirty work falls on nonprofits like Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. In past clean-ups, the scooter companies have sent a local representative to help.

"I think that in the past we've always had a representative here," Captain Al Antolik said. "I personally like having a representative here. It shows they are involved and interested in the process that we're doing. I'm not sure why we don't have any representatives today."

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful spends thousands to fund these clean-ups. Throughout previous dives, roughly 200 scooters have been removed from the Hillsborough River over the last year. 

Electric scooters and bikes have lithium-ion batteries. When dumped in the river, the toxic waste harms the river's ecosystems.

Malique Rankin is a general assignment reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. You can email her story ideas at mrankin@10tampabay.com and follow her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.


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