DECATUR, Ala (WHNT) – On Saturday, a group of volunteers assisted in a nonprofit’s cleanup effort in Decatur and removed over 1,000 pounds of litter from the Clark Spring Branch.

Tennessee Riverkeeper is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect Tennessee and Cumberland River and its tributaries from pollution in various ways, like educating the public or directing cleanup efforts as they did in Decatur Saturday.

The Clark Spring Branch is a stream that runs through Decatur starting near Spring Avenue Southwest, going behind Wilson Morgan Park and through Wilson Morgan Lake until it hits Brush Creek on the eastern side of Highway 31.

According to David Whiteside, the founder of the nonprofit, a team of 12 volunteers removed about 1,051 pounds of litter from the waterway and its shoreline. This included 44 bags of trash, as well as ‘bulky items’ like mattresses and tires. The team said plastic bottles, styrofoam, cigarette butts, and wrappers were the most abundant types of litter in the body of water.

Whiteside said that the Clark Spring Branch and Wilson Morgan Lake are collection zones for garbage and that often litter gets thrown into nearby streets and will flow into bodies of water like these after rain events.

In 2019, Tennessee Riverkeeper launched a microplastic campaign, which consists of cleanups like this in order to remove plastic and other litter which Whiteside said, “negatively impacts water quality and is much more than just an eyesore.” The campaign also works to educate the public on the pollution threat.

 “Scientists have found that the Tennessee River is polluted by as many as 16,000 to 18,000 microplastic particles per cubic meter.  This pollution occurs when larger plastics break down over time. Experts think that they can last for hundreds of years, and toxicity can ‘biomagnify’ as microplastics build up in the food chain” added Whiteside. 

Cross Eyed Owl, a Decatur-based brewery, used their Saturday to help with the nonprofit’s cause. The brewery donated a dollar from every ‘River City Lager’ purchased to help in funding the Tennessee Riverkeepers’ efforts.