Performing a Lake Cleanup

Douglas Lake in East Tennessee


In Cocke County, like many areas, our primary lake serves as a water control reservoir so the level is lowered slowly starting about Labor Day — so as not to flood down-stream communities — and kept low during the winter to provide the extra capacity that will be needed to contain flood waters in late winter and spring.

While the waters are low is a perfect time to clean up the lake shores because they have been exposed all winter and are not only accessible but largely dried out, making working on them much less of a chore than when they are mud.

What Trash Is In the Lake?

During a lake cleanup you are likely to find every kind of trash imaginable.  There will be bottles and containers tossed into the lake by campers and boaters, but also household trash that either was disposed of in the lake or blew off a truck on the way to a convenience center.  There will be tires, furniture and appliances that were deliberately thrown into the lake as a way of bypassing disposal fees at the landfill.  There will be large amounts of driftwood and brush that fell into the water or were washed into the lake by tributaries.

Some lakes prefer to leave brush in non-swimming areas.  In fact some lakes host Christmas tree disposal events by laying dead, natural trees along the shore where the water will be deep enough to cover them.  These then serve as protective habitats for fish.  The trees will decompose over time.  Driftwood and brush may serve the same purpose IF it will stay put and if it is clean.

Woody debris that will float away can cause damage to boats and property.  Brush that is contaminated with trash must be removed to prevent the trash from polluting the water.  Tires, furniture, mattresses, appliances, car parts and similar castoffs have no business in a lake and need to be dragged out and disposed of properly.

Lake Cleanup: a Lot of Work?

That sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it?  It certainly can be.  But any task that is shared by larger numbers makes it that much easier for all: Many hands make for light work.  And, working together with a group of like-minded people can be a lot of fun.  Most lake cleanup organizers will make every effort to keep the task enjoyable, and the results can be very rewarding.  Most lake cleanups will yield many truckloads of trash hauled away for proper disposal, greatly improving the quality of the lake.

As long as there are some people who think it’s OK to dump their waste in a lake, there will be a need for others to come along and cleanup after them.  To help get the message across, if you see someone dumping into a lake, get a license plate number or photo and report them to the local authorities.  If they can be identified there are fines for illegal dumping and some communities will make that person go cleanup the mess they made.

Be a Part of a Lake Cleanup

lake cleanup

Here are just some of our volunteers. T-shirts and refreshments were provided by a TWRA Clean Stream Grant. Take PRIDE – Personal Responsibility in Your Designated Environment!

You can always check the calendar page of the Keep Cocke County Beautiful web site to see what local events are coming up.  Local lake cleanups are done as part of Keep America Beautiful’s annual Great American Cleanup effort.  Lake cleanup is best done while water levels are low, that means early spring: before the stormy season refills the reservoirs.

But wherever you live if there is a lake, there is a need for lake cleanup.  Interested in helping?  Contact your local chapter of Keep America Beautiful and ask when and where the next lake cleanup will be.

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