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Rivers Alive effort targets Hurricane Creek

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., and the Clayton County Water Authority, will call upon the community this weekend to help in the effort to maintain the health of the county's waterways.

With the help of volunteers, the county and the water authority will remove trash and debris that has found its way into one of the county's creeks. The 2009 Rivers Alive Stream Cleanup event will be held Saturday, from 10 a.m., to 12 p.m., along Hurricane Creek in Panhandle Park, located at 10930 Panhandle Road in Jonesboro.

Edie Yongue, director of Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., said that for the past several years, the annual cleanup event has targeted a different location each year.

"Last year, we were over at Rex Park and cleaned Tar Creek," Yongue said. "It's making people more aware of the stuff they throw on the ground. With the rain we're having, where do you think it goes? It goes right into the rivers and the creeks and it costs money to clean all of that stuff."

Yongue said that with the recent rains, it is vitally important that the county's streams and rivers are free of contamination. She said the garbage people throw out of their cars clogs the stormwater system and eventually makes its way to the rivers.

"Do you know why [Interstate] 285 got flooded? ... Storm drains," said Yongue. "There was so much stuff in the storm drains that the water couldn't flow freely and get off the interstate. It is crucial that we keep our rivers and streams clean and that we don't contaminate them."

According to Clayton County Water Authority Storm Water Management Manager Kevin Osbey, last year's cleanup of Tar Creek brought together 70 volunteers, many of them from local high schools, elementary schools and civic groups. He said that last year, volunteers found paint cans, large bags of garbage, tires, sofas, a vehicle transmission, and even a pay phone.

Osbey said the location of this year's cleanup was selected last year by Sgt. 1st Class John Beale, a water authority employee and Georgia Army National Guardsman who was killed in Afghanistan on June 4. Osbey said Beale was instrumental in getting the water authority involved in the project, and that Saturday's event will serve as a way to carry on his legacy.

"We've only been involved as a stormwater utility since 2007," Osbey said. "He has been pretty instrumental in leading the effort. He was really gung-ho about going out and doing recon (reconnaissance) on the various sites that he thought would be good sites for us to work in. He thought it would be a good thing for us to do more cleanups across the county. Next year, we will probably be in the Riverdale area."

According to organizers, staffers at the water authority will give volunteers a short safety briefing and perform water-quality tests on a sample from Hurricane Creek. The tests are part of World Water Monitoring Day, an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources.

Osbey said he hopes the event will have an impact on young people, and that the young people will then carry on the message of water-resource conservation.

"Children are our front line in getting information out," Osbey said. "If you educated the children, the children educate the parents. Once they grow, hopefully they will pass it on to their kids."

Volunteers should dress appropriately in outdoor clothing, and are expected to wear boots or closed-toe shoes. Gloves and bags will be provided, and T-shirts will be given to volunteers on a first-come, first-served basis.

To volunteer, call (770) 477-3674.