The Quad Cities-area native who launched a river clean-up project more than a decade ago is now competing for the title of Hardest Working Man in America. Chad Pregracke is president and founder of the non-profit group Living Lands and Waters. He started it with just himself, pulling garbage out of the Mississippi River. 

Since founding the organization at age 27 in 1998, it’s grown to encompass 11 full-time workers and a fleet of barges clearing waterways in more than a dozen states. At last count, he’s guided more than 60,000 volunteers to collect more than six-million pounds of debris. Pregracke says, “I get a lot of attention and do a lot of interviews and stuff like that but it’s really the team of people who work here every day that really make it happen.”

The East Moline, Illinois-based venture is multi-faceted — but he says all goals point to a cleaner, healthier environment. “We do not only river cleanup, which is the majority of our time, but we also have a nursery in Beardstown, Illinois,” Pregracke says. “It’s part of our Million Trees program and we give out 100,000-plus trees a year, all native trees. We also do teacher education workshops and just quite a bit of different projects.”

Mike Rowe, host of the TV show “Dirty Jobs,” has nominated Pregracke for the “Hardest Working” title through a contest hosted by the antiperspirant, Mitchum. The top prize is $100,000. “There’s about 90 other entries and they’re just different people doing different hard-working jobs around the country,” Pregracke says. “Mine’s just one of them and Mike Rowe does the intro for me. It’s pretty cool.” Learn more and cast an online vote at:

and go directly to Pregracke’s entry here:

In one of Pregracke’s recent success stories, he hosted an Alternative Spring Break program in Cedar Rapids last spring, luring nearly 200 students to help remove huge piles of debris that were left along the Cedar River following the record 2008 flood.