09/30/09 — Big Sweep Saturday

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Big Sweep Saturday

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on September 30, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County residents will join others from across the state Saturday for the "Big Sweep," an initiative designed to rid watersheds of trash, said Barbara Byers, local coordinator.

Big Sweep was started in 1987 by state employees as Beach Sweep and two years later, it expanded inland and was renamed the Big Sweep, becoming the nation's first state-wide waterway cleanup.

In 2002, its mission expanded from litter-free waterways to a litter-free environment, to catch litter before it got into the state's water.

According to Ms. Byers, litter hurts the economy because businesses don't want to locate to trashy areas and tourists don't want to visit them. Tourists are also turned off by whale and other animal beachings, like the whale that beached in Wrightsville Beach a few years ago.

Litter is also a human health hazard, she said. It attracts disease-carrying mosquitos and rodents. And as litter decomposes, it puts chemicals into the ground water. And many people have been injured by accidentally stepping on broken glass and other items.

But people are not the only victims of litter, Ms. Byers said.

It also harms wildlife, when animals mistake the trash for food, and suffocate or the litter clogs their digestive tracts causing them to slowly starve to death because real food can't get past the debris they ate.

Wildlife can also become entangled in litter and are rarely able to free themselves.

Last year's litter cleanup in Wayne County -- which saw 288 volunteers work 490 hours across 11 sites -- netted 36 bags of trash, Ms. Byers said.

They found some "unusual items," including three fire extinguishers, an aerosol can, razors, toothbrushes, a Christmas tree, car parts and golf balls.

Statewide, 18,028 volunteers cleaned 563 sites, netting 470,938 pounds of trash.

Some of the sites to be cleaned this year include the Cliffs of the Neuse by Boy Scout Pack 911 with Tammy Anon as zone captain, Waynesborough Park by a 4-H club with Tammy Hill as zone captain, Berkeley Mall by TEACH 4-H Club with Chris Parks as zone captain, Jordan's Chapel area by Jordan's Chapel 4-H Club with Angie Dunn as zone captain, Fremont Boys and Girls Club area by the boys and girls club with Mrs. Wooten as zone captain, Brogden Elementary and Southern Wayne High School by Learn to Live 4-H Club with Sylvia Stevens as zone captain; Northwest Elementary School by a 4-H club with Tina Wells as zone captain, Grantham Elementary and Tommy's Road Elementary schools by the 4-H after-school club with Janice Edwards as zone captain.

But groups are still needed to take Herman Park and Berkeley Park, said Ms. Byers. Anyone who wishes to tackle these areas is asked to contact Ms. Byers at 731-1520.

Those planning on joining the effort are encouraged to follow these steps to ensure a safe outing:

nProtect yourself from the sun and wear insect repellent.

nWatch out for poison ivy, poison oak, snakes, yellow jackets and other stinging insects.

nWear gloves and don't go barefoot. Instead, wear sturdy closed-toed shoes or boots.

nTake a snack and plenty of water to drink.

nAlways work with a buddy.

nBe careful at creeks and riverbanks. They can be steep, slippery and unstable. If you're unsure of the conditions, find a safer access.

nDon't wade into creeks and rivers where the current is fast moving.

nWear a life jacket if you're cleaning by boat and don't wade into the water to pick up debris unless you're an experienced swimmer, are wearing a life jacket and know the depth of the water.

nDon't pick up anything that looks heavy. Alert your zone captain so it can be picked up later.

nIf you find an animal -- dead or alive -- don't touch it. Report any animals found to your zone captain.

nDon't touch medical waste, chemical containers, barrels, pesticides or anything market "dangerous," "toxic," "explosive," "hazardous" or "poison." Tell your zone captain if you find any of these items.

nIf it looks dangerous, it probably is and stay away from it.