In an epic cleanup effort, volunteers removed more than 9,000 pounds of trash from the Tennessee River, one of the dirtiest rivers in the country.
Over the course of three days earlier this month, volunteers with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful and Johnsonville State Historic Park rid the river of 9,208 pounds of trash, using a 25-foot aluminum work boat to traverse the river and clean shorelines, a news release stated.
“That’s how the change for our river will happen: through local partners and individuals who are eager about taking ownership to protect and improve their beautiful river community,” said Kathleen Gibi, executive director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful. “It’s been truly inspiring for us to see these change makers take action – especially with the local leadership from Johnsonville State Historic Park.”
The team led another cleanup in October, when they collected 4,811 pounds of trash. And there’s still more to be cleaned; the team is planning another event in April and aims to collect 100,000 pounds of trash from the river by the end of the year.
The Tennessee River, a 652-mile tributary of the Ohio River, is notoriously polluted. In 2019, researchers said the river was more like a river of plastic, according to CNN affiliate WVLT, possibly with more broken down bits of plastic than any other river in the world.
“In terms of the other types of pollution, pharmaceuticals, heavy metal, the Tennessee River really isn’t so bad,” Michelle Campanis, University of Tennessee Arboretum education coordinator, told WVLT. “The microplastics are astronomically higher than any other river they’ve studied.”