Over the weekend, nearly 4,000 volunteers scoured the shoreline of Lake Allatoona with trash bags in hand. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, 21 Georgia Power employees will follow in their paths collecting the bags left behind.
Wayne Biasetti, an event coordinator, sees the effort these volunteers make year in, year out. Their motivation comes from respecting the lake as a resource and seeing it dirtied strikes a personal cord for Biasetti and others involved in the cleanup.
"These guys have been doing this for many, many years. They know the lake, they love the lake, they fish and they spend a lot of time out here," Biasetti said. "There's something that's visceral about picking up someone else's trash. ... Once you handle this, it's pretty nasty stuff -- and you get it all over you, all over your pants, shirts -- when you see somebody throw something out of a boat, it'll get you upset.
"I wish that everybody could take a little time and pick up a little trash."
The Georgia Power crew numbered 21 strong on Monday, made up of a cross-section of departments throughout Plant Bowen. Georgia Power has a long-standing relationship with the Great Lake Cleanup, some 20 employees participated over the weekend and those participating this week will be paid for their time. Phil Westbrook and Drew Stinson coordinate the corporate efforts from the ground level, collecting trash and hauling it in to be properly disposed of alongside their coworkers.
"A lot of the employees out there use the lake and feel like chipping in to do our part," Westbrook said. "The power company's real big on environmental efforts as a sponsor. ... They're supplying all the manpower for what we're doing this week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, all the manpower is coming from Plant Bowen.
"I don't believe it would happen without them."
This year, pontoon boats will be loaded down not only with trash bags but also with scrap tires. Tires have long been overlooked in the cleanup process due to the costly removal process, but new environmental regulations have allowed for their use as a fuel source making the cleanup and removal possible.
"These are tires that broke lose during storms and litter the shoreline. In years past, when we've picked up the trash bags off the shoreline but we didn't pick up the tires because they were just too expensive to dispose of," Biasetti said. "We've always felt bad, you know these shores are pristine except for these tires. So, these guys are very, very happy this year."
The number of tires in and around the lake is high. Tires can cause environmental problems in addition to safety hazards when encountered by boaters or water skiers. John Cotter, maintenance supervisor at Allatoona Landing Marina, has seen the problem for years.
"They're an environmental hazard plus the fact they're a boating hazard. Some of them break lose and float around and when they're floating a boat could impact them and that's a dangerous thing," Cotter said. "We've pulled out more than 10,000 tires in the past three years, we've still got a little more to go. Anytime we see tires floating, we go get them."
Most of the tires found around the lake were once a part of wave breaks surrounding area marinas protecting docked boats from waves. Although marinas are making the switch from tires to wooden or metal wave breaks, pollution has remained around the lake.
"They've always been there, it seems like there's more loose tires laying around the shoreline than there had been in the past," Westbrook said. "It's very labor intensive. It's a lot of tires, we picked up at least 200 tires today and we've still got two more days to go, there's no telling how many we'll get before it's over."