DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - Tennessee Riverkeeper recently removed more than 1,300 pounds of aquatic litter from Betty Rye Branch in Decatur on Saturday, May 16, 2020.
In 2020, Riverkeeper has prevented over 5,900 pounds of litter from entering the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers.
In 2019, Tennessee Riverkeeper launched a micro plastics campaign to remove plastic and other litter from waterways, while educating the public about this pollution threat. “Scientists have found that the Tennessee River is polluted by as many as 16,000 to 18,000 micro plastic particles per cubic meter. This pollution occurs when larger plastics breakdown over time. Experts think that they can last for hundreds of years, and toxicity can ‘bio-magnify’ as micro plastics build up in the food chain” said David Whiteside, Founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper.
PLASTICS — Most of the litter found was made from some form of plastic, the most common being polystyrene (“Styrofoam”), polyethylene (plastic bottles and shopping bags), and polypropylene (straws).
Betty Rye Branch is a tributary of the Tennessee River. Eleven people attended, wore protective gear, and practiced social distancing along the creek.
“There is no easy solution to this problem. We do know that preventing plastics from entering waterways is an obvious solution and it is easier to remove garbage from the shorelines and shallow water of creeks and rivers. It is very difficult and inefficient to try to remove litter from deeper water. Another important solution is education and informing citizens that littering not only makes our community look trashy, it also impairs fishing and water quality,” added Whiteside.
The Tennessee River and its tributaries around Decatur, like Betty Rye Branch, are often collection zones for litter. Litter that gets thrown out on streets will frequently flow into creeks and rivers after rain events via drainage systems. Unfortunately, this creates a situation where waterways receive a plethora of plastics. We now know that this garbage negatively impacts water quality and is much more than just a visible eyesore.
David Whiteside, Founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper said: “These events show that a few people can make a difference, and cleanups provide some hope for hundreds of thousands of citizens who are concerned about our blessed river and its tributaries. Clean water is a nonpartisan issue; we are all in this together.”