Floating litter collection device installed on Chattanooga Creek

Chattanooga Times Free Press staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Jack Bates with the Osprey Initiative collects trash on Chattanooga Creek gathered at the trash boom on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

Chattanooga Creek is now home to a litter boom, a floating trash collection device installed Tuesday near the Wheland trailhead of the Tennessee Riverwalk.

“We have 180,000 residents in addition to all those visitors and tourists who come through, which, as you can imagine, can lead to … a lot of litter,” Maria Price, engineering manager for the stormwater division of the city of Chattanooga’s Department of Public Works, said at the ribbon-cutting for the litter boom.

Stormwater eventually carries the litter into waterways, she said.

“This is a great step in preventing that litter from getting into the Tennessee River, which is one of our primary drinking sources,” Price said.

The litter boom was funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded to WaterWays, a local nonprofit organization working to protect and restore watersheds, along with other area partners, including the city of Chattanooga, trail protection nonprofit organization Wild Trails and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“It reduces the amount of litter getting downstream, getting into the river, getting as far downstream as the ocean,” WaterWays Executive Director Mary Beth Sutton said of the litter boom during a phone interview. “It will reduce the breakup of the plastic, so there will be less microplastics in our river and our creek.”

Students and professors from the UTC’s Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Science will monitor the microplastics in the creek up and downstream of the boom, she said.

The Osprey Initiative, a Mobile, Alabama, based environmental consulting firm that patented the Litter Gitter boom installed on Chattanooga Creek, will maintain the device for the next six months, according to a news release.

Osprey Initiative staff members separate the collected litter by type, brand and age in order to help local partners develop litter abatement plans based on the data before the litter is recycled, according to the company’s website.

“Because Osprey Initiative is so amazing with data collection, it will allow us to categorize the litter and figure out if there a way to attack this at the source,” Sutton said of the source of the litter. “We’re doing too many litter cleanups. We need to attack this at the source.”

The grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, combined with funds from a separate grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation, also helped fund education projects related to litter reduction at schools within the Chattanooga Creek watershed: Calvin Donaldson Elementary, East Lake Elementary, East Lake Academy and The Howard School, Sutton said.

“Because they’re all in the same watershed, what they and their families do impacts what’s going on in the creek,” she said.

The litter boom on Chattanooga Creek will, hopefully, be the first of many installed on the city’s waterways, Price said.

“Chattanooga’s renaissance really began when we turned our attention back to the river, and now, it’s time to turn our attention back to the creeks and waterways that feed the river,” Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said at the event Tuesday. “We’ve got a really clear path towards this being a truly sustainable community, and this is a really great step on that path.”

This article originally appeared on the Chattanooga Times Free Press by Emily Crisman. You can read the original article online here.


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The patented Litter Gitter is a tactical in-stream litter collection device used to intercept floating litter from stormwater runoff. The Osprey team handles all aspects of installing and maintaining these “trash traps” and compiles data on the items caught in them, recycling as much of the litter as possible.