Volunteers scour communities for trash during second Valley Creek cleanup of 2019

Volunteers scour communities for trash during second Valley Creek cleanup of 2019
A volunteer loads a bag of trash gathered from the vicinity of Valley Creek in Fairfield.(Michael Sznajderman/Alabama NewsCenter)

Hot, dry weather, but with a blessing of cloud cover on Saturday morning made conditions near ideal for the second Valley Creek cleanup of 2019. And volunteers made the most of it – filling bag after bag with trash that otherwise would likely have ended up in the water.

Volunteers converged at five sites in Jefferson County near Valley Creek, which runs 46 miles from downtown Birmingham to the Black Warrior River. Some 30 organizations, businesses, nonprofits and municipal and public agencies support the Valley Creek events, which are also part of the annual schedule of Renew Our Rivers cleanups held across the state. 2019 is the 20th year for the Renew Our Rivers campaign.

Like many urban water sources, Valley Creek’s primary environmental challenge is storm water, which gathers pollutants like motor oil from city streets as well as fertilizer from backyards before flowing into the waterway. Trash thrown from cars or dumped illegally also often ends up in the creek, affecting water quality and wildlife – and marring the natural beauty of the creek.

At the Fairfield cleanup site, students and educators from Fairfield High School joined city and Jefferson County workers and other volunteers to clean up around the high school campus and at two city parks not far from the creek. Trash collected by the volunteers ranged from bottles and cans to old carpeting, fast-food wrappers and torn-up baseballs found around Willie Mays Park, named after the late baseball great who was born nearby.

Volunteers also conducted cleanups along the creek in the nearby cities of Brighton, Midfield, Hueytown and Pleasant Grove. After the cleanups, volunteers were invited to enjoy a free hot dog lunch.

The Valley Creek cleanups are led by the Jefferson County Department of Health, which will tally up the trash haul in the coming days. Other partners include Alabama Power/Renew Our Rivers, Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Conservation District, Birmingham Stormwater Management, Bessemer Stormwater Management, Storm Water Management Authority Inc., and the nonprofit Freshwater Land Trust. Learn more about efforts to clean Valley Creek and improve water quality in Jefferson County and related education programs and initiatives at www.litterquitter.org.

Volunteers can participate in six more Renew Our Rivers cleanups this year out of more than 30 that were scheduled throughout 2020. The next one takes place Oct. 4-5 at Lake Demopolis, followed by events on the Dog River in Mobile County on Oct. 15, Harris Lake (Lake Wedowee) on the Tallapoosa River Oct. 22-24, Lake Mitchell on the Coosa River on Oct. 26, Neely Henry Lake on the Coosa Oct. 28-Nov. 2 and Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa Nov. 1-2.

Since Renew Our Rivers began in 2000, volunteers have collected more than 15.5 million pounds of trash and debris from Southeast waterways. Learn more about Renew Our Rivers and get details about the remaining 2019 cleanups at https://apcshorelines.com/blog/.

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