“Go forth and collect garbage,” said David Dixon, environmental engineer at MillerCoors and coordinator of Friday’s Great Water cleanup of the Flint River. MillerCoors volunteers were joined by Flint Riverkeeper and the Southwest Georgia Sportsmen’s Club.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Striking out in borrowed boats, some 30 volunteers from the MillerCoors water stewardship program took to the Flint River on Friday, joined by others concerned with keeping local water clean. For four hours the boaters patrolled the water near Lake Chehaw and beneath the bridge over State Highway 32, looking for cans of oil, grease, chemicals, baby diapers -- anything that shouldn't be there.
"Nothing belongs in the river but water and the birds, fish and critters that live there," said David Dixon, environmental engineer at MillerCoors and organizer of the event. "There's a little beach beneath the bridge where people hang out. It needs cleaning now and then."
The impetus of the river-cleaning project was the MillerCoors Great Water Month. Set for September each year, it's a series of clean water projects nationwide aimed at cleaning and conserving water.
"There are no executives today," said Tim Dill, brewery vice president. "Today's an opportunity for us to do something as an organization. Water is a big part of what we do as a brewery, from grain to glass -- from making the beer to cleaning the facilities, even as it flows out to our wastewater treatment plant."
Brewery volunteers were joined by members of the Southwest Georgia Sportsman's Club, which provided some of the boats for the project. According to club member Glenn Sinquefield, that group would return on today for trash and refuge in the 10-mile stretch between Lake Chehaw and the shoals. It's the second straight year of participation for the Sportsmen's Club, Sinquefield said, which yielded 75 large bags of garbage -- mostly bottles, cans and baby diapers.
"We hope people will see us doing it and be more aware of what not to do," Sinquefield said. "The main thing people should do when they go to the river is to bring their own trash bags with them and take their garbage home."
Partnering with the MillerCoors cleanup effort is Flint Riverkeeper, a statewide organization dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of the Flint. Gordon Rogers, Riverkeeper director, called the relationship "a good fit."
"Being efficient with water saves (MillerCoors) money," Gordon said, "so they're constantly looking for ways to be more efficient and to make the water cleaner."
According to Rogers, while Friday's efforts were immediately beneficial, he sees this and similar projects as "symbolic" as much as anything -- to illustrate to people what it takes to clean up their mess and perhaps to change some attitudes.
"It's a tool," Rogers said. "Not an end in itself. I think when you get people's eyes, noses and hands connected with the problems of the water, then you can start connecting with their ears and with their brains. It's about cleaning up your community, being politically active and more efficient with water at home. That includes electricity."