Volunteers extract 6,500 pounds of trash from Lake Tuscaloosa

Tanner Ary

The eighth annual Lake Tuscaloosa-North River Waterfest and Lake Clean Up took place last Saturday at both Rock Quarry and Binion Creek boat landings. The event, hosted by the City of Tuscaloosa, provides citizen volunteers from around the community the opportunity to learn about the importance of protecting and sustaining the local water supply.

This first day of the event gives local fourth graders demonstrations on how and why both water ways are so vital to the community as a whole. The second day gives the whole community a chance to come out and be a part of a lake cleanup initiative.

Mary Pitts, a professor in the Geography Department at The University of Alabama and coordinator of the North River Water Shed Project on the campus, is a volunteer at the day of clean up.

“This clean up is huge,” Pitts said. “Even though it is only once per year, the impact makes a very noticeable difference.”

At this year’s event, 124 volunteers and 34 boats were able to extract 6,500 pounds of trash and other hazardous material from Lake Tuscaloosa. This amount adds to a grand total of 105,000 pounds over the eight-year tenure of the program.

Pitts also spoke on the impact the project makes on volunteers.

“The event is very eye opening for volunteers, especially first timers,” Pitts said. “You’d be amazed at what we pull out of the lake, from full-sized pontoon boats to bottles. Nothing surprises us anymore.”

Dana Willingham, the city of Tuscaloosa senior secretary, touched on why the educating local citizens is so important to preservation of a valuable resource.

“The lake is our main source of drinking water here in the city,” Willingham said. “It is so important to educate the public on how to protect this resource so that our water stays clean and useable.”

Pitts emphasizes how events like this one and her students-only winter clean up each year are very important for everyone in the community.

“These types of project change perspective for everyone and the impact is one that is very widespread,” Pitts said. “It gives you a great feeling inside to play a role.”