Volunteers clean tons of debris from Flint

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Last year, volunteers picked up more than the usual empty plastic bottles, cans and trash when they cleaned up the Flint River -- they found a washing machine, a toilet and a ton of debris.

"I expect we will clean up tons of trash as we cleanup this year," said Judy Bowles, executive director of Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful. "I know the volunteers won't throw anything away in or near the river. I just wish everyone else would stop throwing their trash in the environment."

The state-wide seventh annual "Rivers Alive" cleanup effort got off to a trashy start when volunteers had more than 12 used tires and other debris piled up at about 9:15 a.m. at the Third Avenue, dirt-road entrance to the Flint River walk.

The walking cleanup crew would go until about 11 a.m., Bowles said. Kayak and canoe paddlers met at the Georgia Power Dam boat launch and would continue cleaning until about noon, she added.

"I don't know why people throw their trash in the water," Bowles said. "I think they think that once it is in the water it is gone, but it isn't. It turns up again and we all live downstream."

The volunteers planned to take the walk from the dirt road along both the nature path and the concrete walk cleaning about 4 miles as they went, said Tom Newton a perennial volunteer with the local Marine Corps League.

"We've been coming out here every two or three months since 2007," Newton said. "We like to support Marines and help the community keep the river clean."

Newton recounted some of the bits of trash and debris the volunteers found during last year's work: a swimming pool slide, 27 tires, 14 bags of trash and seven rounds of live rifle ammunition neatly packed in a box.

Many volunteers wore orange T-shirts proclaiming their intention to clean the environment as they picked up trash. As Sabrina Scott, 16, looked at a car fender she said she found the trash variety appalling.

"I was expecting cans and bottles," Scott said. "I wasn't expecting that I would find two tires and all these car parts."

In his orange T-shirt and a pair of sunglasses, 11-year-old Keelan Kubatka could be heard next to the dirt road, "I can't believe there are so many beer bottles, cans and trash out here."

More than a dozen volunteers were at the site before 9 a.m. Among the early arrivals were students from Lee County High School's Naval Junior ROTC program.

"We made a commitment to be here so here we are," said Drake Brann, 15, a student. "We'll clean it as best we can."

At least one volunteer was looking forward to the event from last year.

"I participated last year and it was fun," said Albany resident Sean Zeller. "I saw it was listed on the (Albany) city website and I decided to join again. It is the right thing to do."