About 30 volunteers joined Tennessee Riverkeeper staff Saturday as part of a cleanup effort at the Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area in Tanner.
The team removed hundreds of pounds of trash from the Wheeler Reservoir, half of which was recycled. Other items removed included about a dozen tires, two mattresses and other large items.
The effort was organized by David Whiteside of Decatur and Richard Lax of Tanner on behalf of Tennessee Riverkeeper, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers and their tributaries. Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful provided trash bags, litter grabbers and other materials.
Whiteside said in addition to tires being eyesores, they can also be toxic to humans, fish and wildlife.
“According to scientists, tires can contain benzene, mercury, styrene-butadiene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and arsenic, as well as several other chemicals, heavy metals and carcinogens,” he said.
According to the Alabama Birding Trail, the Swan Creek WMA on the Tennessee River is managed for waterfowl and small game, although it supports other biodiversity. The area contains mudflats, which can be covered with shorebirds. The area can be home to unusual species such as American avocets, black-bellied plovers or Baird’s sandpipers.
“It’s easy to get depressed about pollution and trash in our public waterways. This cleanup is proof that a few people can make a difference and provides some hope for hundreds of thousands of citizens who are concerned about our blessed river and its tributaries,” Whiteside said. “Clean water is a nonpartisan issue; we are all in this together.”