Your chance to help clean Mecklenburg creeks

Residents can help improve area water quality by picking up trash from local streams on Saturday during Mecklenburg County’s annual creek clean-up, Big Sweep. To register, click here.

The Big Sweep will take place at six sites, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers can walk alongside or, if they’re adventurous, wade into local streams and gather trash.

“In 2009, we had Charlotte City Councilman Warren Cooksey up to his elbows in muddy waters,” said Charlotte water quality educator Jennifer Frost.

Last year, more than 300 volunteers pulled 10,000 pounds of trash from area streams. This year more than 500 volunteers have already registered.

The county event is part of a statewide program organized by North Carolina Big Sweep, a nonprofit based in Zebulon, N.C. The group, founded as Beach Sweep in 1987, originally organized clean ups along the N.C. coast but quickly expanded to counties farther inland – forming the nation’s first statewide waterway clean up. This year all 100 N.C. counties, along with countries 90 worldwide, will participate.

Since the event began in Mecklenburg County during the early 1990s, local volunteers have collected thousands of pounds of trash from creeks, finding some strange items along the way.

“The gung-ho ones slopping around in the creek usually get the crazy things,” said Frost.

Some of the sunken treasures include: a rocking horse detached from its rockers, dozens of picked-through wallets, a laminated calendar from 1950-51, dentures, a car axle, refrigerators, washing machines and an entire swing set, fully intact.

Garbage like swing sets and car axles, along with more conventional litter like scrap tires, aluminum cans and plastic bottles, clog storm water drainage systems and damage water quality by introducing new chemicals into area creeks and streams. The volunteer effort helps prevent expensive county-funded repairs or treatments.

“A tire deteriorating in the water blocks drainage and let off lots of petroleum products. We’re helping solve a water quantity and water quality problem with volunteers,” said Frost.

Because Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services partnered with Solid Waste Services for this year’s event, for the first time participants can recycle their collections.

In addition to the six sites listed, volunteers can also organize clean-ups in their own neighborhood and report findings to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services at water/Pages/default.aspx.

The city-county storm water services department will provide gloves, trash bags, snacks and drinks for volunteers.

You don’t have to register to attend. The six sites that will be staffed are:

  • Campbell Creek Greenway
  • Irwin Creek Greenway
  • Latta Plantation Nature Preserve
  • Mallard Creek Greenway
  • McMullen Creek Greenway (no more registrations being accepted)
  • Stewart Creek

For more information about, and directions to, each of those sites, click here.