Volunteers descended on various parts of the Chattahoochee River this morning with gloves and trash bags on hand for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s 10th annual Sweep the Hooch event.
The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an Atlanta-based non-profit responsible for overseeing and maintaining the river and its surrounding tributaries, asks for volunteers each year to help pick up trash and other debris polluting the water.
Sweep the Hooch takes place along the entire Chattahoochee River, with volunteers divided into groups and sent to different cleaning sites based on their location.
Sweep the Hooch normally takes place in April but was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For this year’s event, volunteers were required to wear face masks during the cleanup to comply with CDC guidelines.
Between the three CRK offices located in Atlanta, Gainesville and LaGrange, over 1,200 volunteers signed up to pick up trash at more than 40 sites.
In North Georgia, known as the Headwaters Region of the river, volunteers were spread out to seven sites. Four of those sites were in Gainesville, two in Helen and one in Cumming.
“I love this event because we have all these people from the entire headwaters community that come together on this day to collect trash,” said Mallory Pendleton, Headwaters Outreach Manager for CRK. “It’s also spreading awareness that this is our drinking water, this is the area that we’re using for recreation and all of our household use.”
While some may think that the event only focuses on the river itself, many of the cleaning sites in the Headwaters Region were on Lake Lanier, which feeds into the Chattahoochee River.
At the Lake Lanier Olympic Park site in Gainesville, volunteers pulled trash of all shapes and sizes from the lake and surrounding area. One volunteer pulled a discarded propane tank from underneath some brush, while another dragged a mini fridge up from the lakeshore.
While most of the volunteers walked along the edge of the water to gather trash, some also paddled out into the lake to gather debris.
Eric Larsen, Special Events Coordinator for Lake Lanier Olympic Park, oversaw a group of volunteers that walked around the lake. He said the Sweep the Hooch event helps clean areas of the park that are often neglected.
“Some of these more natural areas with these coves collect a lot of trash throughout the year, so it’s a huge help for us to get volunteers out here to come through and just get boots on the ground and all of these hands picking up the trash that we just couldn’t handle as a small group,” said Larsen.
Left Nut Brewing Company in Gainesville participated in the event, as well and was a highlighted host at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue. Left Nut Brewing Company is a sponsor of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s Quality Beer Tour and a portion of their Pure Source IPA sales are donated directly to CRK.
There is no information yet on the amount of trash collected during this year’s Sweep the Hooch event. According to numbers from the CRK Atlanta office, volunteers with last year’s event collected 32 tons of trash and tires from along the river and its tributaries.