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Volunteers pick up 75 yards of litter

It took more than 580 volunteers two days to clean up nearly 75 yards of trash from Fort Benning waterways.

Part of the annual Help the Hooch event, now in its 12th year on post, the effort means cleaner water, more scenic outdoor areas and less litter for the Fort Benning community.

“It’s our land,” said SPC Michael Pait, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, who returned from Iraq three weeks ago.

“It’s a resource and we trash it up adding to the pollution. So you do your part, you clean up the river, and you can enjoy it for longer,” said SPC Pait, who volunteered at the postwide cleanup Friday. “I don’t think you have to be a huge environmentalist to be a part of something like this. It’s the right thing to do. You’re helping preserve the environment.

It was PFC Jonathan Klein’s first year volunteering with Help the Hooch, but he enjoyed it, he said.

“I love the outdoors,” said the 11th Engineer Battalion Soldier. “I don’t consider myself an environmentalist. However, I do clean up after myself. All the junk that’s out there we did a few truckloads at least.”

SPC Pait and PFC Klein were at different sites — there were 24 this year — but between the two of them, they found bowling pins, several cargo nets, tank track links and the front windshield of a Humvee.

Other finds during the day included a beach ball, TV, scrap metal, a portable fireplace chimney and 41 tires, said Ms. Jesse Taylor, Clean Water Act technician on post.

Uchee Creek had several plastic bottles and aluminum cans floating in it.

This trash is primary linked to individuals who party in the platoon boats and fishing,” Ms. Taylor said. “The trash is a problem as it can leach toxins into the water killing wildlife and harming our drinking water.”

“We just want to clean up the Chattahoochee River and the tributaries on Fort Benning so people can be outside and recreate,” said Ms. Brittany Beadle, recreation specialist at Outdoor Recreation. “Most of the places where water collects on post eventually drains toward the Chattahoochee.”

The cleanup not only is a way to pick up litter on post but also a means of educating the public about the seriousness of pollution, Ms. Beadle said.

“Somebody thinks one water bottle is not going to mean anything,” she said.

“And there’s a lot of people who think one water bottle is not going to mean anything, so that all accumulates. The people who come out here and volunteer see how much it accumulates (to make) an entire roll-off dumpster full of trash.”

The cleanup event was held in conjunction with the valley-wide Help the Hooch, which included a Saturday cleanup and Watershed Festival as a “thank you” to the volunteers.

Help1: Mr. Chad Carpenter, an engineering technician with the Directorate of Public Works, picks up a tire from the woods behind Wilson Elementary School, where a small water runoff frequently collects with litter. The main cleanup was Friday, but several groups, including Boy Scouts and post schools, volunteered on alternate days, such as Oct. 14 and Saturday. All volunteers were invited to a free lunch Friday at Russ Pond and a family Watershed Festival Saturday at Golden Park in Columbus.

Help2: A roll-off dumpster filled with litter shows how much trash accumulates on Fort Benning land and water. Volunteers picked up tires, track links, bottles and more.

Help3: Mr. Joe Wilkins and Ms. Telma Rosquete with the Directorate of Public Works remove litter from Uchee Creek Marina.