Get dirty to get clean

CSRA has many hands to make light work of waterway cleanups

Henry David Thoreau called water “the only drink for a wise man.”

If only more people were wise enough to keep their water clean.

That wasn’t a problem in Richmond and Columbia counties last weekend. Fifteen teams of people wised up enough to pitch in during Savannah Riverkeeper’s 12th annual Rivers Alive waterway cleanup.

“We get a decent number of requests to help organize cleanups,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Executive Director Tonya Bonitatibus. “We also have a very active community service program, so there are very few days that go by that someone linked in one way or another isn’t out cleaning up debris in some way or form.”

That’s good to know. Fifteen teams of cleaners might sound like a lot – until you realize how many civic clubs, church groups and youth organizations there are in the CSRA. Surely they all want to contribute something to the betterment of our area. Making our environment cleaner, and preserving the precious natural resource of water at the same time, are great ways to give back to the community.

Savannah Riverkeeper already has overseen several cleanups this year – some big, some small. But it all adds up to tons of trash and recyclable material collected. Just a couple weeks ago, volunteers at Elanco’s new office site on Lovers Lane filled up an entire Dumpster in just four hours.

“We will do everything we can to help you pick a spot, work with disposing of the debris and, if we have T-shirts available, provide them as well,” Bonitatibus said. “We are really trying to put a big emphasis in 2014 on growing our debris removal program.”

Riverkeeper organizations operate all over the state – there are seven the last time we counted – but Savannah Riverkeeper seems to be the only one that regularly tackles the problem of abandoned boats. The group is planning one such operation in a few weeks.

Remember that partially submerged houseboat The Augusta Chronicle featured in its Pardon Our Mess feature Oct. 14? Boats like that aren’t just eyesores – when they capsize, they contaminate the water with leaked oil and fuel.

Savannah Riverkeeper won’t turn down free manpower to help clean waterways, but it accepts monetary donations gladly.

“The biggest challenge when it comes to cleanups is covering the cost of the supplies needed,” Bonitatibus said. “The city of Augusta is incredibly supportive, so we are very lucky there. But covering the costs of organizing, the supplies, etc., is always tricky.”

This most recent Rivers Alive cleanup included a Boy Scout troop, biology students from Georgia Regents University and third-graders from C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School. Would you like to help organize a group for an upcoming cleanup? We hope you do. Call Savannah Riverkeeper’s project manager, Marisa Harris, at (706) 826-8991 to find out how.

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