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How you can protect Hall County water this month
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Three Chestatee High School students collect trash out of a local body of water during Gainesville Water Resources' annual stream cleanup in 2018. Photo courtesy Gainesville Water Resources

By the end of September, Lake Lanier and other bodies of water around Hall County will look a lot cleaner.  

Both Gainesville Water Resources and Lake Lanier Association are calling Hall residents to don their mud-ready clothes and gear up for their upcoming waterway cleanups. 

Shore Sweep 

The 31st annual Shore Sweep will take place along Lake Lanier from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26. People can register for the event, which is led by the Lake Lanier Association, by visiting lakelanier.org/clean-lake/shore-sweep or signing up on-site the day of.  

Participants will receive free trash bags, gloves and event T-shirts at their cleanup location. Bonny Putney, chair of the Shore Sweep, recommends registering online to make sure the association has enough T-shirts for those involved. 

Shore Sweep 

What: Annual Lake Lanier cleanup ran by Lake Lanier Association 

When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26 

Where: At 12 locations along Lake Lanier 

Map of cleanup sites: lakelanier.org/clean-lake/shore-sweep/

To register and more info: lakelanier.org/clean-lake/shore-sweep/

Putney said the event will encompass 12 sites on the Lanier — including Gwinnett, Forsyth, Dawson and Hall counties — stretching from the south end to the north. Some of those in Hall include Aqualand Marina, near the maintenance yard boat ramp on Lights Ferry Road in Flowery Branch, Gainesville Marina on 2145 Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville and Don Carter State Park on 5000 N Browning Bridge Road in North Hall. The full list of locations with addresses can be viewed at lakelanier.org/clean-lake/shore-sweep

For those unable to participate on Sept. 26, Putney said they have the option of picking up litter from an advanced site on the lake. The list of eight locations can also be found at lakelanier.org/clean-lake/shore-sweep

People who clean up before Sept. 26 are asked to leave collected trash at their advanced site’s designated space, which includes signs that read, “Show Sweet Advanced Site. Put your trash here.” 

Last year, Putney said the event’s group of around 1,000 volunteers gathered 80 tons of litter from along the shoreline and in the lake. She said encapsulated pieces of foam —which can detach from docks — are responsible for most of the weight, reaching 300-500 pounds each. Because this specific type of foam is encased in plastic, Putney said the water that seeps in cannot dry out, making the object heavier. 

“We expect a lot of trash in public areas,” Putney said. “We really encourage private boat owners to help us to go to other islands that aren’t accessible by land.” 

All participants are asked to wear masks and maintain a 6-foot distance from others during the event. Putney said every event site will have dumpsters and be manned by Lake Lanier Association volunteers, who are equipped to help move large pieces of trash. 

Having been involved with the event for over 20 years, Putney said she has seen her fair share of discarded objects in Lake Lanier like lounge chairs, stoves and cars. 

“One of the strangest things I’ve picked up was some dentures,” she said, laughing. “I would love to know the story of how this happened. If only they could talk.” 

She encourages people who enjoy Lake Lanier all summer to do their part and spend “a few hours cleaning it up.” 

“There are so few things we have control over, and this is one thing we can do,” she said. “Let’s pick up the trash and get it cleaned out.” 

Virtual Stream Cleanup 

Instead of having people gather at the Flat Creek Water Reclamation Facility, like in years prior, Gainesville Water Resources’ annual Stream Cleanup is expanding its roots all over Hall to promote social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19. The event will take place from Monday, Sept. 21, to Monday, Sept. 28.  

Kristen Howard, the department’s water conservation specialist, said participants are invited to form their own trash pick-up groups and choose a preferred time and place to implement their cleanup.  

“This is for any lake, stream, pond or river around Hall County,” Howard said. “It can be in their backyard, in the local park, in a business.” 

Virtual Stream Cleanup 

What: Hall County-wide waterway cleanup led by Gainesville Water Resources 

When: Monday, Sept. 21, through Monday, Sept. 28 

Where: Your choice of any body of water in Hall 

To register and more info: gainesville.org/department-of-water-resources/stream-cleanup/ 

People can register their group, preferred time and location by visiting gainesville.org/department-of-water-resources/stream-cleanup.  If a team doesn’t have a neighborhood stream or other site in mind, Howard said Gainesville Water Resources can help them find one. Registration ends Monday, Sept. 14. 

After signing up, Howard said a confirmation email will shortly arrive, which will include information about picking up a cleanup kit at the department’s office, located at 2641 Old Flowery Branch Road in Gainesville. The kit includes liability waivers to be signed by each participant, trash bags, gloves, face buffs provided by Rivers Alive and instructions for what to do when their team is done. 

Howard said the City of Gainesville and Keep Hall Beautiful will haul off the trash collected by volunteers. She encourages all participants to wear masks and practice social distancing.  

During 2019’s event, Howard said around 60 volunteers collected 1,080 pounds of trash around the county’s bodies of water. This year’s cleanup is in partnership with both Rivers Alive — a state-run waterway cleanup volunteer program — and Keep Hall Beautiful.  

“Ultimately, it’s about raising awareness,” Howard said. “All of these creeks and streams we’re cleaning up are leading out to our drinking water source. That’s why we partner with Rivers Alive because it directly impacts all of us.”

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Myron Bennett stands behind a mound of trash he helped collect during last year's stream and river cleanup hosted by Gainesville Water Resources. This year, people can pick up litter from Sept. 21-28, at any body of water in Hall County, including Lake Lanier. Photo courtesy Gainesville Water Resources
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