Waycross installed a trash trap before the Satilla River a decade ago 2020-04-20

“Well, it is unsightly, it is disgusting, and it’s been going on for years.”

No, he’s not talking about trash coming down Valdosta creeks into the Withlacoochee River, but he might as well be. It’s a report from Mobile, Alabama, about the Bandalong trash trap in a canal just upstream from the Satilla River in Waycross, Georgia. A trash trap with funding organized by the former Satilla Riverkeeper. These days, even less expensive trash traps are available. It’s time for the City of Valdosta to get on with buying some for Sugar Creek, Two Mile Branch, Three Mile Branch, and maybe other locations. There are less expensive, easier, and more flexible trash traps available now, which I will post about later.

And no, trash traps do not solve the whole problem. For that, the upstream fast food outlets and parking lots need to stop trash from getting off those lots and install trash cans and clean them out. Valdosta city ordinances say they must, and if business don’t do it voluntarily, they can be fined. Then people living along Valdosta creeks won’t have to worry so much about their children playing in trash health hazards on creeks.

We had a good meeting Monday with some Valdosta city departments about all this, with promise of followup meetings. We will supply them with options to move ahead with fixing the trash problem from upstream parking lots to trash traps to cleanups.

[Bandalong trash trap, canal before Satilla River]
Bandalong trash trap, canal before Satilla River

NBC 15 Mobile, March 28, 2012, Report on Waycross, GA’s Bandalong Litter Trap,

Every time it rains in Mobile, mounds of trash, litter, and debris end up in Dog River. Well, tonight, Local 15 News is looking at a possible solution to the problem. Andrea Ramey traveled to Waycross, Georgia, to take a look at a device there, that leaders say has all but fixed their litter problem.

NBC 15 Mobile — Report on Waycross, GA’s Bandalong Litter Trap, March 28, 2012

In southeast Georgia, the Satilla River attracts anglers, and avid outdoorsmen, from all over. Known for its redbreast brim population, the beautiful blackwater river boasts white sandbars, cypress trees with seemingly endless roots, and breathtaking sunsets.

But several years ago the Satilla River developed another reputation. One that doesn’t go on a brochure.

“Oh, it was very disgusting.”

The Satilla had become a trash-ridden river. After every rain, mounds of trash would float down it.

“Everything from cushions and basketballs, and styrofoam, and plastic, and wood, and all kinds of waste. Even furniture. Even furniture would be floating down the river. It just destroyed the beauty of the river.” —Don Berryhill, Satilla Riverkeeper, pictures by Wayne Morgan.

The problem, trash from town gets into the storm drains. It winds up here, in Thibeau Canal, which flows into the Satilla River. But officials here have come up with a unique way to trap the trash. They’ve installed this litter catcher.

“It has made a difference…. It’s intercepted the vast majority of litter entering the river from the city.” —somebody standing in front of City Hall.

And the city says it’s relatively easy to maintain, too… Periodically, and primarily after a heavy rain, a crane lifts a basket full of trash, after workers push the litter in and close the gate. Twenty minutes later, the trash is out of the water.

The Waycross trash trap also got written up in another state, Florida. Carole Hawkins, Jacksonville.com, March 29, 2010, Waycross installs device to help clean Satilla,

A fast-food coffee cup dropped on a city street would typically get flushed down a storm drain, wash into a river and, eventually, float out to sea.

But now in Waycross, it’s more likely to get trapped behind floating booms stretched across a city canal.

Waycross installed a litter trap, called a Bandalong, behind its water treatment plant Thursday to trap floating debris before the canal empties into the nearby Satilla River. It is the first city in Georgia and only the second in the nation to use the device.

The project was funded by a $134,000 grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority which, in turn, was funded by last year’s federal stimulus package. The city will pay back a portion of that money—$54,000—over the next 10 years.

City Engineer Frank Baugh said Waycross had been working with former Satilla Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers for years to find grant money for a river trash collection system.

“Gordon had attributed much of the pollution problems in the Satilla to stormwater runoff from Waycross.” Baugh said. “We did this to be good environmental stewards and because there are signs that environmental regulations for stormwater are going to become stricter for cities our size.”

After a rainstorm, rafts of floating trash could be found along the canal and the river for a distance stretching as long as 15 miles, Rogers said.

“It would pile up behind overhanging trees and other obstructions,” said Rogers. “It’s not only an eyesore, as it sits there and rots it’s consuming oxygen in a river that’s already got problems with oxygen.”

Searching on the Internet for a solution, Rogers said the Bandalong was the only trash collection device for water he could find anywhere.

“The only other alternative would have been for the city to custom fabricate a fixed bar screen and the cost would have been astronomical,” Rogers said. “This seems like a pretty novel solution.”

The canal’s own current will push litter into the Bandalong. A line of floating polyethylene tubing will funnel the trash into a metal trap that sanitation workers will empty.

“It’s a remarkably simple product,” said Mark Kirves, vice president of Storm Water Systems, which manufactures the device. “It’s the kind of thing where once you see it, you just hit yourself on the head and say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ ”

Kirves said floating litter is a huge environmental issue, not just for Waycross, but all over the world.

“Right now there’s a great garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean and another in the Atlantic,” he said. “The one in the Pacific is the size of Texas.”

The plastics in the litter have broken down into pellets and are being eaten by fish and other marine life, he said.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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