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DECATUR, Ala. – More than 1,400 pounds of aquatic litter was removed from Wilson Morgan Lake and Clark Spring Branch by Tennessee Riverkeeper’s cleanup on Saturday.

This was Tennessee Riverkeeper’s fourth cleanup at Wilson Morgan Lake and Clark Spring Branch in 2019. The Riverkeeper has prevented over 14,870 pounds of litter from entering the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers so far this year.

Before and after of the Tennessee Riverkeeper’s clean up on Saturday in Decatur (Photo: Tennessee Riverkeeper)

“These events show that a few people can make a difference, and cleanups provide some hope for hundreds of thousands of citizens who are concerned about our blessed river and its tributaries. Clean water is a nonpartisan issue; we are all in this together,” said David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper.

The group said the majority of the litter they collected was from some form of plastic. The most common was styrofoam, plastic bottles, shopping bags, and straws.

The Tennessee Riverkeeper launched a microplastics campaign in 2019 to remove plastic and other litter from waterways while educating the public about this pollution threat.

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“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 breakdown over time. Experts think that they can last for hundreds of years, and toxicity can ‘biomagnify’ as microplastics build up in the food chain” said Whiteside.

Whiteside added that there is no easy solution to this problem.

“We do know that preventing plastics from entering waterways is an obvious solution and it is easier to remove garbage from the shorelines and shallow water of creeks and rivers.  It is very difficult and inefficient to try to remove litter from deeper water.  Another important solution is education and informing citizens that littering not only makes our community look trashy, it also impairs fishing and water quality,” added Whiteside.

Tennessee Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization, founded in September 2009.  The mission of Tennessee Riverkeeper is to protect the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and the tributaries by enforcing environmental laws and educating the public.