Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful spearheads 18th annual Flint River cleanup

Oct. 5—ALBANY — The Flint River has been a vital resource for area residents since the time people arrived in southwest Georgia, from drinking water to a major transportation center during the age of steamboats as well as for fishing, canoeing and recreation.

The river basin, which includes the Floridan aquifer deep underground, also supplies water for irrigation, municipal water systems and industry throughout the region.

Unfortunately, some people use the waterway as a garbage can. So on Saturday volunteers will return the favor to the Flint by mounting a cleanup project.

Adult volunteers are welcome to join in for the annual Rivers Alive cleanup, a partnership between Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful and the Flint Riverkeeper.

The land-based team will gather at 8:30 a.m. at the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau headquarters at 112 Front St. The team on the water is scheduled to depart from the Georgia Power Co. dam at 9 a.m.

"This is actually the 18th annual (Rivers Alive event); we're going to be walking the banks of the Flint River and pick up trash and debris," Jwana Washington, executive director of KADB, said. "(Flint Riverkeeper) will clean out any debris people have put in the Flint River. Once they're done, they will come out and we'll weigh it to see how much they collected."

Last year, the team on the water picked up 2,000 pounds of garbage. The numbers are reported to the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation, as are totals from other trash pickup events over the course of the year.

As for the Flint Riverkeeper, its involvement stretches back about 12 years, Gordon Rogers, the executive director and riverkeeper for the environmental organization, said.

"I guess on a couple of different levels, it means a lot," Rogers said. "One, it's nice to have a community partnership. People in Dougherty County, in Lee County, are working on it, Flint Riverkeeper is working on it, some of the people from the Jones Ecological Center are coming up."

The volunteers can expect to pick up the usual suspects of beer and soft drink cans, along with Styrofoam and plastic cups. But the haul can contain unusual items as well. A recent cleanup in Dougherty County netted a container with antifreeze in it.

And a commercial garbage receptacle washed downstream by a flood, a drink machine and boat batteries are among the haul brought to shore in recent years.

"It's interesting what you find, and it's important to keep the waterway clean," Rogers said.

Recent research findings have revealed that these days everybody has microscopic plastic particles in their bodies, "and we don't know what it's going to do to us yet," he said. "Water samples up and down our coasts show the concentration of plastics is manyfold higher at the mouths of rivers and in the mouths of rivers, so there's a lot of plastic coming down from rivers."

While groups clean up some of the area streams a few times during a year, there is something people can do every day to make a difference, Rogers said, and those are relatively easy to do.

"Everything moves downhill, so everything that is thrown on the ground in Albany goes to the river," he said. "People should come out and help us if they want to be involved, but the best way to help is just not throw things on the ground.

"People ask me all the time what they can do for the river. Don't litter and use as little water as you can. You do those two things, and you're doing a lot."