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Litter trap catching its share of trash in Flat Creek
Device installed recently has eased pollution during heavy rains
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The Bandalong Litter Trap in Flat Creek catches trash that flows down the creek Wednesday afternoon in Gaineville. The trash trap has had to be emptied multiple times this week due to rain washing trash into storm drains that lead to the creek. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The recently installed Bandalong Litter Trap in Flat Creek has had a tough job the past couple of days with heavy rains washing large amounts of garbage down storm drains, but Erik Lunsford said the contraption has handled the task quite nicely.

“It’s been effective,” said Lunsford, who is pre-treatment coordinator for city of Gainesville. “It’s definitely doing the job. It’s catching a lot of litter.”

Installed mid-December on Flat Creek just south of the Flat Creek Water Reclamation Facility on Old Flowery Branch Road in Gainesville, the 600-pound device aims to reduce trash in the long-beleaguered waterway, which flows some 6-7 miles from downtown Gainesville to Lake Lanier.

Lunsford said that “pretty much everything you can imagine being thrown out the window of a moving car … ends up washing into the storm drain and makes its way to Flat Creek.”

City of Gainesville environmental services administrator Horace Gee said they’ve also been trapping the kinds of stuff one wouldn’t expect to see floating down the stream, including 10 soccer balls and two reusable coolers.

“We’ve collected many pounds of trash (five big garbage bags full since installing the litter trap),” Gee said, adding that the contraption has also been catching a lot of sticks and limbs due to the large amounts of rain.

Department of Water Resources Director Kelly Randall said that “any trash you can get out of the water is worth it ... much of it is plastic, and plastic will break down, but it takes a very long period of time.”

Randall added that much of the trash that ends up in the lake came originally from a place where you wouldn’t expect, “like a store parking lot … people don’t think about that, but if you throw something in the parking lot, it will likely end up in the lake.”

City and county officials are hoping to make a difference with the litter trap.

Hall County paid for 60 percent of the $174,000 purchase and installation costs and Gainesville 40 percent. Gainesville is paying for maintenance of the litter trap.

Gary Hopkins and Mark Kirves, owners of Storm Water Systems, assembled the device in its plant off Industrial Boulevard, south of Cleveland.

The company has delivered systems to other places in the nation, including three in Washington, D.C.

Storm Water pushed the product to area officials several years ago, but the effort didn’t pick up steam until the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association found out about the product and became a big promoter, Hopkins said.

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