The Brightside: Scuba diver is cleaning up the Indian River Inlet one lead sinker at a time

SUSSEX CO., Del. – At the Indian River Inlet, one man is reeling in more than just fish. Try lead, and a lot of it.

Ronald Newswanger said, “The most I ever brought up one time was about 70 pounds.”

For over 25 years, Ronald Newswanger has been scuba diving at the inlet. When he’s not checking out the local sea life, he’s picking up old lead sinkers from the seafloor.

“Typically I bring up 40 to 50 pounds at a time,” he said.

Newswanger started doing this a few years ago.

“I just started bringing it up and eventually, I had buckets of it sitting around not sure what to do with,” he said.

Eventually, Newswanger got a creative idea. Why not melt the sinkers together and turn them into weights?

Newswanger said, “I came across this mold to make these lead fish, so I was making fish out of the lead and using them to hold our rugs down at the campsite.”

It wasn’t long before others got hooked on the idea.

Newswanger said, “I’ve had people driving over an hour down just to pick one up.”

At this point, Newswanger makes sea turtles, fish and seahorses and get this, he gives them away for free.

Newswanger said, “It’s a hobby, it’s a fun sport and I didn’t want to turn it into a money thing.”

Newswanger says the meaning some people take away from these weights is enough payment for him.

“I get stories that say their father used to fish here all the time and lost a lot of sinkers. Now he’s passed away, but they set [the lead weight] up on a shelf somewhere, and it reminds them of him because they’re thinking that his sinkers could be in that mold.”

On top of the sentimental value though, cleaning up the weights means birds have a smaller chance of ingesting them and getting sick. Newswanger says he’s just glad he can help the environment.

“It’d be nice to just get as much out of here as I can,” he said.

When it comes to the future, Newswanger says he has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“I’ve always joked that I’d like to get the park to put in a gate and a handicap ramp for me at some point. As long as I can physically keep doing it, I’m going to keep doing it,” he said.

If you would like to get a lead weight from Newswanger, you can send him a message on his Facebook page by clicking here.

Categories: Brightside, Delaware, Local News