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Cleanup pulls ton of trash from Flat Creek
Rain highlights ongoing stormwater problems of waterway
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Flat Creek Cove is more than a ton lighter in trash, thanks to a weekend cleanup that involved 212 volunteers.

But early-week rains could create another mess for the 6-mile waterway that cuts through Gainesville and unincorporated Hall County, highlighting the creek’s ongoing stormwater problems.

“We need the rain, we definitely need the water, for sure, but we don’t like the pollutants that come with it,” said Brian Wiley, Gainesville’s environmental monitoring coordinator, on Monday.

The last time Flat Creek got battered by rain was Aug. 10, when 4 inches of rain fell in about
90 minutes.

“The culmination of a lot of debris, a lot of stuff on the ground, stuff that was already in the creek from downtown” ended up in the creek, and eventually the narrow cove, which spills into Lake Lanier, said Horace Gee Jr., Gainesville’s environmental services administrator.

Until Monday, the area had received little rain, so the creek was beginning to clear of all but litter by the time of Saturday’s annual Gainesville-Hall County Rivers Alive Stream Cleanup.

About 100 people had preregistered, with the final number of volunteers far exceeding expectations.

“We almost had more folks than we have stuff to pick up,” Wiley said. “This community is very blessed in terms of the number of people that come out for events like this and also the different groups that help us put this on every year — supplying food, beverages, donations and gift cards,” he added.

“Without the volunteers and the help from those folks, none of this would ever be possible.”

Volunteers were shuttled to key locations on Flat Creek Cove from McEver Arts Academy, including Ridgewood Point, where cul-de-sac residents awoke Aug. 11 to a trash-clogged waterway.

One of those was Cecilia Lankford, who said she believes Flat Creek cleanups might need to take place every six months.

“One of the major problems ... is there is so much wood in the water. I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” she said.

The cleanup resulted in 2,740 pounds of litter removed.

Still, officials acknowledge Flat Creek, as an urban waterway listed on the state Environmental Protection Division’s Impaired Water List, is likely to be an ongoing problem,

“We’ll continue to push the concept and understanding that anything you leave on the ground or toss out goes into the storm system and then into a waterway,” Wiley said. Also, “we have groups that want to volunteer to work on a service project, typically during the week or something like that,” he added. “We’ll just (direct them to) areas that seem like they are becoming a problem again or a threat to be the issue we saw (Aug. 11).”

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