Volunteers clean up the Flint

Flint Riverkeeper Executive Director Gordon Rogers heads out onto the Flint River from the Cleve Cox Landing boat launch Friday. An estimated 47 volunteers participated in a river cleanup that was a joint effort between MillerCoors and the Flint Riverkeeper organization. (Staff Photo: Cindi Cox)

ALBANY — Dozens of volunteers gathered at Cleve Cox Landing in Dougherty County Friday as MillerCoors and the Flint Riverkeeper organization worked side by side to clean up the Flint River. The partnership coincides with MillerCoors’ annual Great Water Month, a series of global corporate water cleanup events taking place through October.

Now in its seventh year, the Flint cleanup is part of the MillerCoors project that focuses on water stewardship via employee participation to help preserve waterways in communities where the beer manufacturer’s facilities are located. Organizers say Great Water Month is MillerCoors’ largest annual event.

Lower-than-average water levels a year ago prevented clean-up volunteers from taking boats into the river. Instead, dozens of volunteers cleaned up river banks around Cleve Cox Landing off Philema Road and around the Georgia Power Dam. Organizers said a portion of this year’s cleanup team combed the river banks while others went downriver from Cox Landing by boat.

Joanne Conger, an environmental sustainability engineer at MillerCoors, said she expects those who go by boat will make several stops along river banks.

“We have seven or eight boats that are making about a two-hour trip down the river,” she said.

By noon, 47 volunteers had signed up to participate. Soon after, several boats took to the water to begin the annual cleanup.

Flint Riverkeeper Executive Director Gordon Rogers said enough volunteers showed up to make a significant impact.

“We have enough people and boats to go all over the reservoir and to cover much of the river,” he said. “We will pull items in from the water and send volunteers into some of the hot spots to pick up debris along the river banks.”

Rogers said there is significantly less trash today than there was when the annual Riverkeeper and MillerCoors Flint cleanup project began.

“This is reflective of the work we’ve done in the past and the press getting the word out,” he said.

Rogers said he also believes that people are paying closer attention to waterways and the need to preserve natural resources.

“MillerCoors is very committed to clean water advocacy,” he said.

Conger said MillerCoors works to educate its employees about clean water and water consumption and to ensure that the company’s manufacturing process is mindful of ways to conserve water usage.

“Water is such a valuable resource,” she said. “It’s all about clean flowing water.”

Added Rogers: “No water, no beer.”

Flint Riverkeeper President David Dixon estimated the annual cleanup had already helped remove 20 tons of trash and debris from the Flint and its riverbanks.

“We partner with MillerCoors on several projects throughout the year, but this is our big cleanup,” he said.

During previous cleanups, organizers say volunteers brought in tires, children’s toys, shopping carts and plenty of beer and soda cans. This year, boats began arriving back at Cleve Cox Landing just after 3 p.m. An hour later, Congers said most of the boats had returned. She estimated about two tons of trash had come in with the boaters.

Organizers say all of the collected trash will be delivered to the local landfill once the cleanup is finished.

Conger said most of the debris collected on Friday consisted of smaller items and general litter, but a few large items also came back including tires, two coolers and the large part of a boat trailer.

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