Picture scuba-diving in a crystal-clear blue ocean. You may expect to see colorful and unique fish swim past, bright coral, or thriving sea fauna. The underwater world can be beautiful. Then, is that a jellyfish?
Nope. It’s a plastic bag floating along. It isn’t that surprising. Increasingly, pollution and litter are affecting our water ways. Not just in the ocean which you can often see videos of online, but also in our very own waterways in Northwest Georgia.
If you live or work in Whitfield or Murray County, there is a large chance that you are in a watershed every day. A watershed is the area of land that drains water running off it into the same body of water. Here, that water is the Conasauga River. Just because you can’t see water, doesn’t mean that your activities don’t impact it. Litter, which is trash in the wrong place, in a watershed will end up in the body of water that the water drains to.
Whether it’s via a storm drain or being blown straight into a creek, litter thrown out in our community eventually ends up in the Conasauga River watershed.
While litter looks unsightly, it also has economic and environmental impacts. According to a Keep America Beautiful study, “this includes lost tourism revenues, expenses for repairing vehicles, boats and ships, restoration of ecosystems, wildlife injury, and eventually the cost to human health.” Even homeowners estimate that litter in their neighborhood can decrease the value of their home by 10% or more.
The Conasauga is one of the six most biologically diverse freshwater river systems in the country. It supports 24 endangered species, and a dozen other imperiled species like the Southern Pigtoe Mussel, and the Conasauga Log Perch, which is a fish found in no other place in the world. Litter and water pollution have a negative impact on the quality of life of these animals reducing their oxygen levels and food sources.
Waterways can provide clean drinking water, support agriculture, control pests, increase property value, and offer great recreational activities. For instance, the new Haig Mill Lake Park had its grand opening on Saturday and is now open during regular hours for walking, kayaking, and fishing. These are some fantastic opportunities for our community.
Sometimes, recreation around water can lead to litter ending up in the waterways. To help keep this area free of litter Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful, Whitfield County 4-H, and the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department have built and placed four monofilament fishing line collection bins on each dock at the new park. If you are an avid fisher, we urge you to check out Haig Mill Lake Park. Once when you’ve caught a winner, make sure to place your monofilament line in one of these bins for recycling.
Monofilament fishing line is not biodegradable which means it will last hundreds of years. Animals easily become entangled in the line because it is thin and often clear. If an animal does notice the line, there is a high chance they will try to consume it. During an international cleanup, a deceased sea turtle was discovered that had eaten 590 feet of fishing line.
Even if you don’t see a creek near your home, you can have a positive impact on the quality of water. In fact, we can all do our small part to keep our watershed clean on a daily basis. For example, not throwing trash on the ground, picking up pet waste, and properly disposing of used motor oil is a start. However, once a year, we can really come together to pitch in to make a big difference.
Volunteers for this year’s clean-up event can expect to spend a couple of hours in the morning picking up trash. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes or boots, long pants, and long sleeve shirts. Gloves, trash bags, water, and snacks will be provided at each site. And, as a thank you, volunteers will receive a t-shirt and a choice from a selection of items including sunglasses straps, cell phone lanyards, and bandanas commemorating this year’s event while supplies last.
To download the event flyer with directions to the seven locations visit www.keepdaltonwhitfieldbeautiful.org. For more details, call 706-278-5001 or follow Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful on Facebook to join and share the event listing. The river cleanup is part of the United Way’s Make a Difference Day. To find other volunteer opportunities available this weekend visit www.ourunitedway.org/MADD or call 706-226-4357.