Success During Our First Marine Debris Removal on One Mile Creek
by Karrie Quirin, AmeriCorps Volunteer Engagement Member
We promised volunteers our Marine Debris Removal on One Mile Creek would not be “your average cleanup,” and it certainly lived up to its name! On the morning of October 28th, we experienced some unconventionally chilly weather for the Mobile area. With temperatures in the 50’s, cloudy skies, and a sprinkle here and there, we were pleasantly surprised to have a turnout of 56 volunteers. This event served as the official kickoff for a two-year grant we received from NOAA to help Mobile “Move Toward a Litter-Free Mardi Gras” (One Mile Creek receives a significant amount of Mardi Gras litter from storm water runoff).
A few of the groups who participated included Team River Runner, Thompson Engineering, and a large showing of students from Spring Hill College and University of South Alabama. Fraternity brothers from Spring Hill College’s Sigma Chi and TKE fraternities represented in the greatest numbers. Reflecting on the event, AJ Jones, a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, said he, “thought it was nice to see everyone come out to show so much support for the place we all call home,” and he “enjoyed taking the initiative into his own hands!”
Despite the conditions, all volunteers were excited to get on the water and begin cleaning up! Before beginning to do so, volunteers received education on the importance of cleaning up One Mile Creek. Many of the problems it faces include litter, sewer spills, stormwater runoff, and invasive apple snails. Apple snails are a pesky invasive species wreaking havoc on wildlife in our local waterways. To read more on the importance of their removal, check out our blog on our last Apple Snail Roundup here.
Because there is no established canoe/kayak launch on One Mile Creek, volunteers received the “red carpet treatment” (literally) by being escorted safely down a steep muddy path covered by a red carpet and helped into their boat. Once in the water, the threats facing the creek became apparent rather quickly as they headed downstream. Bright pink apple snail egg clusters were found along the banks of the creek along with trash piles that were described as “mountains.” In certain areas, the land alongside the creek was covered completely in litter. With the help of our volunteers, we were able to remove 1,160 lbs of litter! Although styrofoam beverage and food containers and plastic bottles were the bulk of what we collected, some other interesting items we removed included a car seat, a toy car, and plenty of tires!
Images such as this convey the importance of cleaning up neglected waterways like One Mile Creek. Litter accumulates in this creek and eventually washes into Three Mile Creek, which empties into the Mobile River before entering Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. These efforts of removing litter were only made possible through partnerships with the City of Mobile, Thompson Engineering, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, and Gulf Coast Containers and our amazing volunteers! We were also excited to introduce a new element to this cleanup of separating and recycling rigid plastics from the litter collected. This process was made available through the help of TerraCycle. Estimates show that approximately 40% of what we collected was recycled, totaling 250 cubic feet by volume of recyclables! Once volunteers arrived back on shore, they helped sort these plastics from the litter and warmed up with some homemade hot cocoa and hot dogs from Dew Drop Inn.
For the remainder of 2017, we will not be leading any apple snail roundups or cleanups, but you can organize your own! We encourage community members to reach out to us for the resources and tools to host a cleanup or roundup. Please contact our Membership and Volunteer Coordinator Chad Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org to borrow our equipment for an afternoon or weekend.