Big Cahaba Cleanup canceled for threat of severe weather

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

The Cahaba River Society, which organized “the largest Cahaba cleanup ever” with the upcoming Big Cahaba Cleanup has canceled the event on Saturday, June 8, due to the threat of severe weather.

Of the stretches of river scheduled to be cleaned, two of the access points were located in Shelby County, with one being off U.S. 280 near Grandview Medical Center and the other off Shelby County 52 in Helena.

“Cahaba River Society had planned the most ambitious Cahaba cleanup ever attempted for this Saturday, with more than 200 volunteers agreeing to scour trash from the Cahaba River from Trussville to Helena, but this weekend’s weather forecast of severe weather has forced the cancellation of the Big Cahaba Cleanup,” a release from the society read.

The Cahaba River, the longest free-flowing river in Alabama that runs through a large portion of Shelby County, is a main drinking water source for the Birmingham Water Works Board, which serves about one-fifth of Alabama residents. It is also a treasure trove of natural wonders, with more species of fish per mile than any other river in North America. Considered nationally and globally significant for freshwater biodiversity, it is a magnet for ecotourism, drawing visitors from around the globe to marvel at its natural wonders, such as the renowned Cahaba Lily.

“As disappointing as this cancellation is, the safety of our volunteers is our top priority,” Education Director Gordon Black said in a release. “Our volunteers are deeply committed, and if this were just a question of a little rain, they would be out there wearing rain coats. But we are looking at severe thunderstorms which will cause rising water levels, conditions which will not be safe for working in and around the river.”

The society also pointed out that the same storm system will also increase the amount of trash in the Cahaba.

“The takeaway from this situation is that the heavy rains will wash even more litter off of parking lots, roads and surrounding areas,” Executive Director Beth Stewart said in a release. “This trash will run into storm drains and then straight into the river. It is as important as ever to share our anti-littering message. Litter has a direct effect on wildlife and the quality and cost of our drinking water, and we can do something about that by reusing, reducing waste and recycling.”

The Cahaba River Society will continue moving forward with the public education component of the Big Cahaba Cleanup as planned. The society has already run a series of anti-litter radio advertisements in the metro area and released the first two installments in a series of short, educational videos about litter pollution. More video installments are underway as well as educational outreach in concert with cities and counties in the watershed.

The Cahaba River Society also said they would continue to organize many individual cleanup projects with businesses, schools, churches and other community groups throughout 2019, with plans to hold an even bigger Big Cahaba Cleanup in Spring of 2020.

“The most important message that we want people to know, is simple,” Black said. “Don’t litter, it ends up in your river.”

To learn more about the Cahaba, schedule a river clean up, or become a member of Cahaba River Society, visit CahabaRiverSociety.org.