Renew Our Rivers cleanup draws smaller, but dedicated volunteer staff

Most of the volunteers in Mississippi Power's Renew Our  Rivers cleanup on Thursday were...
Most of the volunteers in Mississippi Power's Renew Our Rivers cleanup on Thursday were redirected to recovery efforts in Florida. But there were enough to get the job done.
Updated: Oct. 11, 2018 at 7:10 PM CDT
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DELISLE, MS (WLOX) - You never know what you will find in the backwaters, especially after a storm or rising tides.

And sometimes, picking up requires some taking down first.

Mississippi Power Company has been doing the Renew Our Rivers project for 13 years, and Mike Clelland with Alabama Power has been volunteering for 10 of them.

“When we take this out and show people, hey, look what came out of our waterways and our drinking water, they say, ‘Oh, we didn’t realize that it affected such a big area.’ And we’ve covered three or four miles of shoreline today," Clelland said.

This is the third year that Mississippi Power Company has brought the Renew Our Rivers program to the waters around Chemours plant in DeLisle. That includes the Bay of St. Louis and the Wolf River.

“We live here. We fish and ski and swim in these waters,” said Duane Wilson, Chemours site engineering manager. “So, it means a lot to us. We’ve got about 1,000 employees and contractors and that work and live in this area, so, it’s important to all of us.”

Last year after Hurricane Nate, volunteers picked up a whopping five tons of debris from these waters.

This latest effort will be more like one ton.

Volunteers have picked up about 360 tons of litter over the span of the event.

While big items get the attention, the small stuff is the real problem.

“The thing we find the most is going to be cups - Styrofoam cups, water bottles, cigarette butts, the general trash that you find on the side of the road just litter,” said Courtney VanderSchaaf is the chair for Mississippi Power’s Renew Our Rivers effort that goes on even when resources are sent elsewhere.

“Even though our teams had to be pulled off to do the line work over in Florida, we still have a dedicated team here that are helping clean up that aren’t needed outside the state.

“My biggest satisfaction,” Clelland added, “would be if we could come out here one day and just take a boat ride and not pick up anything.”

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