Opinion Extra

How did THAT get in the creek? And what are you going to do about it?

Litter and other debris routinely wash into Gill’s Creek, sometimes clogging it, sometimes flowing downstream to litter lakes.
Litter and other debris routinely wash into Gill’s Creek, sometimes clogging it, sometimes flowing downstream to litter lakes.

Our community suffers from a major, unsightly problem: litter. It’s everywhere you look: on the street, in parking lots, in the ditches, even in our neighborhoods.

All of this trash ends up somewhere, and for a large portion of Richland County, that somewhere is Gills Creek.

Gills Creek used to be a true community asset with clean water, abundant wildlife, even a swimming club. These days, it’s polluted with high levels of bacteria, mercury,and other contaminants that make swimming inadvisable if not downright dangerous. The most obvious problem, though, is the litter.

All of the litter from surrounding developments along Two Notch, Arcadia Lakes, Forest Acres and Columbia ends up in Gills Creek. It tends to accumulate in one of the lakes downstream, where homeowners are forced to deal with the mess. Not only is this unsightly and bad for the environment, but there are real costs associated with removing the litter. Sometimes these costs are shouldered by the nearby homeowners, or by an organization such as the Gills Creek Watershed Association, and sometimes our local governments have to address the problem.

It’s an effort that takes time and money — and that could be easily avoided.

Erich Miarka

Gills Creek Watershed Association organizes and leads dozens of cleanups every year to remove litter from our waterways, but it is an uphill battle. We clean the same areas several times each year, and each time the amount of litter and debris is astounding. We pick up everything from tires to beer cans, and there is no end in sight. No matter how many cleanups we do, the trash just keeps coming.

Last year, through a grant from Palmetto Pride, we installed six trash cans at “litter hotspots” along Decker Boulevard to try to intercept trash before it ever reaches the creek. These trash cans have been successful, but they’re only a start. The litter problem extends all over our 75-square-mile watershed, and indeed, all across our state.

It is time for all of us to take a little pride in our community and address this problem. Citizens need to take personal responsibility and do their part by not littering and by keeping their neighborhoods clean. Our municipalities and law enforcement agencies need to actually enforce our litter and dumping laws and start writing tickets to those who seek to spoil our beautiful state.

The Gills Creek Watershed Association will continue our litter pickups all over the watershed, but we cannot do it alone. We need citizens to report litterbugs by using the statewide hotline, 877-7LITTER. And we need your help and time as a volunteer for one of our many cleanup activities. Gills Creek, along with so many of our other water resources in our state, does not have to remain a polluted mess. We can address these problems, and litter is the low-hanging fruit. Please help us make Gills Creek a community asset once again.

Mr. Miarka is executive director of the Gills Creek Watershed Association; contact him at erich.miarka@gillscreekwatershed.org.