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Area's lakes, roads being trashed

By Greg Gelpi

The pungent smell of warm rotting fish reeled in a swarm of buzzing flies.

Plastic drink bottles made gray by time bobbed up and down on the murky water.

Trash, food and household appliances desecrated the serene scene of Minnow Lake in Rex, despite the efforts of both Keep Georgia Beautiful and the Clayton County Department of Refuse Control.

"It provides recreation for those who like to fish and those who just enjoy the scenery," Nancy Eddins, who passes the lake daily, said. "Lately, though, it has been bombarded with all types of litter, from building supplies to garbage."

A pack of waterfowl and countless turtles maneuvered through the waters dodging an abandoned water heater and weaving around discarded trash.

"When we first moved here, everything was kept neatly trimmed," she said. "It's such a mess now. It has been such a wonderful place."

Among the trash and appliances, a board with rusty nails sticking straight up awaited the right foot to step on them.

A work crew from the Refuse Control Department makes cycles around the roughly 600 miles of county right-of-way in response to complaints to pick up trash. The six or seven-person team picks up trash daily, returning to the same spot every three or four weeks, Wayne Lee, assistant director of the Refuse Control Department, said.

"We're over there quite a bit," he said, speaking of the Rex area, where the lake is located. "We usually have a place cleared within two or three days of being called."

Residents can call the department to pick up trash, but must pay depending on the amount being picked up. The minimum is $15, but could be "several hundreds of dollars," Lee said.

Fines for littering could run up to $1,000, he added.

Keep America Beautiful has affiliates throughout the state, including one in Clayton County. The 64 affiliates cover 76 percent of the population and claim to pick up 48 percent of the trash in an area within three years of beginning efforts.

Last year, more than 40,000 Georgians participated in the Great American Cleanup, according to Keep Georgia Beautiful.