More than 1,400 pounds of litter removed in Tennessee River cleanup

More than 1,420 pounds of aquatic litter was removed by the Tennessee Riverkeeper on Saturday, November 16, 2019. (Courtesy: Tennessee Riverkeeper)
More than 1,420 pounds of aquatic litter was removed by the Tennessee Riverkeeper on Saturday, November 16, 2019. (Courtesy: Tennessee Riverkeeper)

Saturday's cleanup is part of the Tennessee Riverkeeper campaign to remove microplastics from the water.

Posted: Nov 16, 2019 9:31 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2019 8:44 AM

Hundreds of pounds of aquatic litter were removed from the waterways leading to the Tennessee River Saturday morning. 

The 1,420 pounds of litter are part of the Tennessee Riverkeeper's campaign to remove as much microplastics from the water as possible. In 2019, their cleanup efforts resulted in stopping more than 14,870 pounds of litter from entering the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers.

"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," said David Whiteside, the founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper.

He said the majority of the trash found in and near the water was "some form of plastic, the most common being polystyrene (“Styrofoam”), polyethylene (plastic bottles and shopping bags), and polypropylene (straws)."

"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 break down over time," said Whiteside.

Saturday's effort was the fourth organized cleanup project at Wilson Morgan Lake and Clark Spring Branch in 2019. Whiteside said it's not just plastic that concerns them.

"Other forms of litter can be toxic too. Tires can contain: benzene, mercury, styrene-butadiene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and arsenic, as well as several other chemicals, heavy metals and carcinogens," said Whiteside.

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