By Joel Hall
Occasionally, it's old electrical appliances. Once it was the rusty bumper of a truck. Very often, it's bags of household garbage.
A lot of things float down the Flint River that end up settling on its banks near Swint Elementary School. The river, which begins in southern Fulton County, is the only major river that runs through Clayton County, and is the county's primary water source.
For over a decade, the Clayton County Water Authority, Keep Clayton County Beautiful, and Swint Elementary have teamed up for the annual Rivers Alive Stream Cleanup. The event, which is part of the statewide Rivers Alive initiative, is a way to get a hands-on experience as to how human actions affect the water supply.
The river cleanup will be Saturday at Swint Elementary from 10 a.m., to noon, immediately followed by a fish fry until 2 p.m.
Jeannie Richmond-Lynch, assistant principal of Swint Elementary, said the Rivers Alive Stream Cleanup is a long-running tradition at the school.
"I've been here for 13 years and they have done it every year that I have been here," said Lynch. She said that the event usually coincides with a large, fall festival at the school.
Edie Yongue, executive director of Keep Clayton County Beautiful, said the event location always has been Swint Elementary, because of it's parking and easy access to the river.
"We normally have it on the last Saturday of the month, but that's race weekend [at the Atlanta Motor Speedway], so we wanted to get away from that," said Yongue.
Yongue said the event provides a convincing visual of how important it is to keep the Flint River clean.
"You can educate people by having hands-on experiences," said Yongue. "That's the only river that we have that runs through our county and the Water Authority captures water from it. That's where we get our drinking water from."
In addition to cleaning up the river, Yongue said that staff from the Clayton County Water Authority will conduct educational demonstrations on how fertilizer runoff affects drinking water supplies, and how to analyze water samples.
Suzanne Brown, public information officer for the Clayton County Water Authority, said that every year, volunteers usually retrieve a "dump truck" full of garbage from the rivers.
"[The event] gives [volunteers] a chance to see first hand how people littering and dumping directly affects our water supply," said Brown. "It's a good community event. It's a good way to meet other residents doing something very visible to clean up the community."
Volunteers are asked to wear clothes that can get dirty, and will be provided with gloves and garbage bags. For more information, call Suzanne Brown at (770) 960-6972.