Electric scooters are showing up in Richmond canals, and locals are worried

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Richmond is urging people to keep their trash in the trash can and scooters on the ground after the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) say they have found electric scooters and other debris in local waterways.

Richmond local Tiera Stevens likes to visit Brown’s Island to capture the site of the canal, but during her most recent visit, she noticed something was missing…the water in the canal.

“We get here and it’s like ‘oh, what happened to the water?’ It’s a little disappointing,” she said.

The water is removed when the City undergoes a dredging process to remove sediments and debris from the bottom of the Haxall Canal. According to the National Ocean Service, this is a routine necessity to maintain the depths of the canals, improve water flow and limit the exposure of harmful materials to fish and wildlife.

While it is normal for workers to remove trash and debris during this process, the City says they have found some abnormal items along the way — one them being electric scooters.

Jonathon Mote, a visitor to the canal, worries about the harm that these scooters — and the batteries that power them — could cause.

“Although it might seem funny to throw them in the river, it does have an environmental impact,” Mote said. “Once the chemicals start leaching into the water, it’s very harmful to aquatic life.”

According to studies complied by the National Library of Medicine, less than 1% of toxic metal found in the lithium ion batteries in scooters were detected in waters where the batteries had been submerged for more than a year. However, the findings caution that batteries can still be potentially harmful.

“Nonetheless, rapid removal of batteries dumped by vandals into rivers and lakes from the surface waters is advised because no sealing can hold forever,” one studies writes.

A spokesperson from Bird, one of the several electric scooter companies in Richmond, sent 8News a statement saying they routinely work with cities to retrieve scooters that have been vandalized in this way, and that they support law enforcement who may need to take action on anyone who vandalizes e-scooters.

DPU told 8News that they are continuing to encourage citizens to dispose of trash and debris properly and not in waterways — something that both Mote and Stevens support.

“Don’t throw scooters in the water, please, that would be nice,” Stevens said.

“Dang, y’all need to stop throwing scooters in the water!” Mote added.

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