Freshwater Land Trust to install 11th Litter Gitter in Tarrant, 11,000+ pounds of trash collected

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Litter Gitter
Freshwater Land Trust Litter Gitter. Photo via Freshwater Land Trust

Freshwater Land Trust (FLT) and their partners have a lot to celebrate on National Cleanup Day this coming Saturday, September 18th.

11 Litter Gitters

In December of 2019, FLT launched Project Litter Gitter, one of the most successful local water quality programs in recent memory.

What’s a Litter Gitter?

Litter Gitter
Litter Gitter in action. Photo via Freshwater Land Trust

A Litter Gitter is an in-stream litter collection device patented by Osprey Initiative, an Alabama based environmental contractor focused on sustainability efforts. In a nutshell, the machine collects litter from stormwater runoff, removing and preventing floating litter traveling downstream.

Thanks to a three-year EPA grant and a growing list of partners, Litter Gitters have been installed in creeks and tributaries throughout Jefferson County.

On September 16th, the 11th Litter Gitter is slated to become operational on Five Mile Creek at Billy C. Hewitt Park in Tarrant. Joining Freshwater Land Trust in the collaborative effort is Osprey Initiative, ABC Coke, a division of Drummond Company, Inc., City of Tarrant and Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

The other ten sites include:

Litter Gitter
Project Litter Gitter launch at McCallum Park in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Black Warrior River Watershed

  • Valley Creek (Bessemer, funded by the EPA)
  • Valley Creek (Birmingham, funded by the EPA)
  • Valley Creek tributary (Brighton Memorial Garden Cemetery, funded by the Jefferson County Department of Health)
  • Village Creek tributary (Birmingham – Airport, funded by the EPA)
  • Village Creek (Birmingham – East Lake Park, funded by Birmingham Coca-Cola Bottling Company)
  • Village Creek tributary (Birmingham – Roebuck Marketplace, funded by the EPA)

Cahaba River Watershed

  • Griffin Brook (Homewood, funded by the City of Homewood)
  • Shades Creek (Homewood – Brookwood Mall, funded by the EPA) Little Shades Creek (Vestavia Hills – McCallum Park, funded by the EPA)
  • Pinchgut Creek (Trussville, funded by the Jefferson County Department of Health)

11,000 Pounds of Trash

Since its inception, Project Litter Gitter has removed more than 11,000 pounds of trash from Alabama’s rivers. 

“About 50% of the trash we’ve collected are plastics, and 25% styrofoam,” said Rusha Smith,  Executive Director at Freshwater Land Trust. “When you hold a plastic water bottle or a Styrofoam cup, that weighs practically nothing, so to envision 5,000 pounds of plastic bottles, or 2,500 pounds of Styrofoam, it’s an enormous amount of trash.”

Rave Reviews from the Cities

Litter Gitter
Valley Creek Litter Gitter installation in December 2019. Photo via Freshwater Land Trust

Because of the Litter Gitter, streams are noticeably cleaner, according to Freddie Freeman, Bessemer’s Stormwater Specialist. 

“In the Valley Creek watershed everything flows from Birmingham through Bessemer, then it goes into the Black Warrior River. Whenever we have a flash flood all of the debris that is on the side of the road —plastic, styrofoam and more goes into the storm drain and down into Valley Creek. What’s so great about Project Litter Gitter is that it captures all of the floatables that go downstream during rain events. It has remarkably improved the stormwater.”

The City of Homewood liked the program so much they installed Litter Gitter in Griffin Creek. A second litter, which was funded by EPA found a home in Shades Creek alongside Brookwood Village. 

“It’s a win win win,” Homewood City Councilor Jennifer Andress told us. “A lot of stuff comes down the creeks that never even started in Homewood, it started further up in the county. These devices have been great and we’ve really enjoyed it as a community because it’s been something tangible that you can see and it obviously is working.”

Next Up

Diverse partnerships, improved water quality and a cleaner community —Project Litter Gitter is a great reason to celebrate National Cleanup Day. Stay tuned for additional Project Litter Gitter installations in a community near you. Want to learn more? 

Visit Freshwater Land Trust.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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