Volunteers needed for Rivers Alive stream cleanup

Many people, who are deeply concerned about the environment, will, no doubt, acknowledge that "as long as rivers continue to be used as dumping grounds, volunteers will be needed to clean out the junk."

That is not a concession to pessimism, but to realism. And that is why what the Clayton County Water Authority and other organizations do on a regular basis is important. And they need the public's help to do it well.

The call for volunteers goes out again from Clayton water authority officials, asking residents to come out this Saturday for the annual "Rivers Alive Stream Cleanup." The two-hour project to clean up part of the Flint River will coordinate at Swint Elementary School, on Ga. 138 in Jonesboro.

Last year, nearly 200 people heeded the call, and showed up to clear the waterway, said the authority's Storm Water Management Manager Kevin Osbey.

"We set a new record last year with 198 community volunteers, including students from Clayton State University, the AT&T Pioneers, high school students, families ,and lots of local scouts," he said. "We certainly hope to have even more folks join us this year at Swint Elementary."

Last year, volunteers pulled out tires, rusty bike frames, and even a car door from the river.

Osbey said the annual event drives home the importance of keeping our local creeks and streams clean of trash and other pollutants.

"The objective of this annual event is to get local residents involved in preserving and protecting our local waterways," he said. "We work throughout the year to educate residents about the damage stormwater pollution does to our local waterways, and how they can prevent this pollution from making its way into our drinking water reservoirs."

The authority's stormwater staff will give volunteers a short, safety briefing before leading them to the portion of the Flint River being cleaned up.

Staff members will also perform water-quality tests on a sample from the river. 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 around the world, by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies, said authority spokeswoman, Suzanne Brown.

The importance of the Flint River to Clayton County and the state can't be understated, officials said.

The waterway flows from the Piedmont to the Chattahoochee River in southwest Georgia. The Flint is one of 40 rivers in the lower 48 states to flow unimpeded for more than 200 river miles, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The Flint's source is groundwater seepage in west central Georgia at the mouth of a concrete culvert on the south side of Virginia Avenue, in Hapeville. The river ends in a reservoir where it meets the Chattahoochee in southwest Georgia. In between, the river's eight watershed points include Jonesboro, and drains 8,460 square miles, the encyclopedia states.

Clayton County's event is part of the statewide Rivers Alive volunteer cleanup event that targets all waterways in Georgia, including streams, rivers, lakes, beaches and wetlands. The statewide efforts are sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division's Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Program, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs' Keep Georgia Beautiful Program.

Volunteers should wear outdoor clothing, waterproof boots and gloves. To volunteer for the stream cleanup, call (770) 960-6972.