Cleaning the rivers

Mission | July 24, 2016

Every morning, Dan Breidenstein wakes up on a barge on a river somewhere in the United States. He gets breakfast, sits in on the daily morning meeting, and then gets to work collecting garbage – or guiding and encouraging others as they do the same.

He is one of about 10 people who live most of the year on the barges of Living Lands & Waters, a nonprofit founded in the Quad Cities 18 years ago with a mission to clean up the garbage accumulating on the Mississippi River.

Dan initially went to school to become a computer engineer. Environmental work suits him much, much better.

“I know people say their jobs are different every day,” said Dan, who is the multimedia specialist and project coordinator for LL&W. “But really, it’s different every day out here.”

For Dan, it started with seeing a commercial advertising a LL&W cleanup in 2010. “I thought it would be cool to be a part of something bigger,” he said. So he grabbed a couple of family members and headed out to Buffalo, Iowa, to clean up garbage. “I fell in love with it.”

After spending spring breaks and an internship volunteering for LL&W, Dan now works for the organization full time. Chad Pregracke is his boss.


Chad grew up with the Mississippi River as his back yard, the organization’s story begins. Through his experiences of living and working on the river, he became appalled by the amount of debris dumped into the river. He tried to encourage state and federal agencies to clean up the river. Nothing happened. So he decided that if no one else would clean up the river, he would.

In 1997, Chad, then 22, single-handedly removed more than 45,000 pounds of trash from the Mississippi River with a small grant from Alcoa. The media began to take note, and support started to come in from a variety of organizations.

In 1998, Chad formed Living Lands & Waters. The mission is:

  • To aid in the protection, preservation, and restoration of the natural environment of our nation’s major rivers and their watersheds.
  • To expand awareness of environmental issues and responsibility encompassing our rivers.
  • To create a desire and opportunity for citizens to take an active role in helping to make a cleaner river environment.

Since its founding, LL&W has removed more than 8.7 million pounds of debris that had been impairing fish, bird, and wildlife habitat and polluting our waters. With a volunteer force of more than 95,000 volunteers, the LL&W team has helped clean up 23 rivers in 20 states.

LL&W has a full-time staff and an equipment base of five barges, two towboats, five workboats, seven trucks, a crane, an excavator, a bus and two skid loaders. Chad and his crew live on a house barge, traveling port to port up to nine months a year. They host community-based river cleanups, tree plantings, invasive species removal events, and educational workshops for educators and students.

This year, St. Paul added Living Lands & Waters to its benevolence giving. The organization will receive $2,000 to help support its efforts.


Dan’s bio calls him the guru of trash collecting. He also reportedly plays one mean kazoo. He described why working and volunteering for LL&W is so rewarding.

“The impact you make is first-hand. It’s very tangible,” he said. “You go to a shoreline and you remove garbage. First you see it filthy – covered in garbage. But in 45 minutes or an hour, with the help of everyone coming together, it’s clean.”


Trash stats

Living Lands & Waters has collected thousands of piece of garbage over the years. Here are a few highlights.

Shopping carts: 70

Toy dolls: 698

Cars/trucks/vans: 14

Bags of trash: 105,042

Balls: 23,512

TVs: 268

Ronald McDonald shoe: 1

Combine harvester: 1

Pianos: 4

Duck decoys: 273

Dishwashers: 69

Messages in a bottle: 78


How can you get involved?

Million Trees Project

The Million Trees Project is expanding the oak population one tree at a time. Since 2007, Living Lands & Waters staff have distributed or planted 1 million oak saplings in 16 states. These trees provide a vital habitat and viable food source for indigenous wildlife, and also increase water quality by filtering pollution and reducing erosion.

On Saturday, Aug. 13, from 9 a.m.-12 noon, pitch in at a nursery beautification event at the nursery near the Davenport Public Library, 6000 Eastern Ave., Davenport. For more information, visit

Adopt-a-river mile

The Adopt-A-River Mile program is an opportunity for individuals or groups to participate in by “adopting” a mile section of river shoreline. This program covers all U.S. waterways. By making this commitment, you agree to help beautify, restore, and maintain that section of river. For more information, visit

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”