The dirty scoop about the Tennessee River

Reported by: Erik Avanier
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Updated: 10/07/2013 6:47 pm
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - A scenic section of the Tennessee River that borders downtown Chattanooga may be iconic but it's also a popular dumping site.

This past weekend, WDEF spent some time with Tennessee River Rescue volunteers who were taking part in the annual fall season cleaning of the Tennessee River.

"A lot of people use the river as their garbage can," said volunteer Dill Byles.

He was right. WDEF witnessed volunteer divers removing all kinds of trash and junk from the bottom of the river near the Market Street Bridge.

"We've all been guilty of throwing stuff in the water at least one time or another in our life but when you get down there and see how much of it is in there, it's sad," said diver Rick Hughes.

Hughes and other divers removed everything from tires, bottle, cans and furniture to a typewrite and even a microwave oven from the bottom of the river.

"A microwave; yes that's very unusual but they have pulled wild stuff out of here before,"Hughes said.

Tennessee River Rescue is also following leads on dumped household trash bags with names and addresses inside.

"We track it down and report it. So we've cleaned up a lot of dump sites and I think we're getting the river cleaner as the years go by," said Tennessee River Rescue organizer Christine Bock.

Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke even weighed in on what was found in the water. He said the River has played a key role in the city's cultural and economic development.

"We went form the dirtiest city in America to the home of Volkswagen, the gig and the vibrant downtown. Part of that is because we really do care about the environment. Our incredible river through the middle of the city, our beautiful mountains and it's important for life and our economic development," Berke said.

The Tennessee River was one of more than 20 waterways within the Chattanooga metropolitan area that underwent a cleanup. During the cleaning, volunteers removed more than 200 tires out of rivers, lakes and creeks. They also removed drug paraphernalia.

At Camp Jordan in East Ridge, volunteers uncovered human skeletal remains inside a creek. Authorities are now trying to determine if foul play was involved.


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