Project pulls plastic from the Pearl

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

Clean water is essential to life. On Saturday, volunteers in Monticello will be joining others across the state in an effort to keep the Pearl River clean.

Pearl Riverkeeper, a non-profit dedicated to improving the Pearl River watershed, is once again hosting its annual Pearl River Clean Sweep. Volunteers all along the river will be grabbing their boats and searching for garbage in the river.

Monticello Ward 4 Alderwoman Karen Hill, one of the site leaders for the Clean Sweep, said the river is an important feature to her city.

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“It runs through the center of town,” Hill said. “People spend a lot of time on the river recreationally for fishing. I like to just ride and look. It’s a beautiful river.”

The river is also important to the health of the state. The Ross Barnet Reservoir on the river in Rankin and Madison is the state’s largest surface source of fresh drinking water, according to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The river is also an important habitat to over 130 species of fish, 40 species of mussels and eight federally designated endangered species, according to Pearl Riverkeeper.

Communities along the river are active participants in its welfare. In March, Hill voted with her peers in favor of a resolution condemning the “One Lake” project where a 1,500 acre lake would be built on Pearl River near Jackson. 

In 2018, there were 11 volunteers in the Monticello team, and they collected about 200 pounds of trash from the river. Project-wide, more than 700 volunteers collected 33,840 pounds.

The Clean Sweep in Monticello will begin at 8 a.m. Volunteers will meet at the boat ramp at Atwood Park, and Hill said she expects it to continue until around 11 a.m. She suspects that navigation might be difficult because of how low the river is.

“The river is so low, that some people with boats can’t get in with all the snags,” Hill said. “In some spots, it’s a few inches. Literally.”

Despite the potential difficulty in navigation, Hill said the actual work of removing trash from the river isn’t too hard. Items the group found last year included plastic, polystyrene fish bait containers and bottles.

“Trash accumulates in little nooks and crannies,” she said. “So it’s actually kind of easy to clean. We just go from pile to pile.”

Hill said residents who want to participate should pre-register at The organization asks participants to bring a reusable water bottle, gloves and sturdy shoes. Monticello particularly needs volunteers who can bring a boat, and grabbers are useful. Hill said people without access to a boat could also participate by helping removing trash around Atwood Park.