Volunteers gather tons of trash from Valley Creek during Alabama Power’s Renew Our Rivers cleanup

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Volunteers from Midfield High School came out to participate in the Valley Creek Cleanup. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

On Saturday, August 13, volunteers from around the state traveled to Midfield to clean up trash, litter and other debris from Valley Creek during the Biannual Valley Creek Cleanup. The cleanup is part of the award-winning Renew Our Rivers campaign, an initiative led by Alabama Power that has removed countless amounts of trash from waterways in the Southeast—but the work is far from over.

Keep reading to learn how you can participate in future Renew Our Rivers cleanups in Birmingham.

The Valley Creek Cleanup | Midfield

Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
Volunteers piled trash, litter and debris into canoes while wading down a one-mile stretch of Valley Creek. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

At the Valley Creek Cleanup, volunteers were split into two groups. The Roadside Cleanup Crew worked to remove litter along the roadside banks, while the Creek Cleanup Crew waded through a one-mile stretch of Valley Creek to remove as much trash from the banks as possible.

“Some of the common trash items we’ll find are bottles, cans and plastic bags, while the biggest items we usually find are tires and shopping carts. But we’ve even found a safe and a brand-new bicycle—you never know what will end up in the creek.”

Jonika Smith, Environmental Health Specialist, Jefferson County Department of Health
Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
Who wants to see trash like this clogging up Alabama’s beautiful waterways? (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Why Valley Creek? Valley Creek begins beneath Downtown Birmingham and flows toward the Black Warrior River. Since the Black Warrior River is one of the major sources of Birmingham’s drinking water, it’s important to keep the Valley Creek watershed as pristine and free of pollutants as possible. According to the Jefferson County Department of Health, over 80 tons of trash have been removed from Valley Creek over the years—but there is still a lot of work to be done.

The Cleanup is coordinated by the Valley Creek Cleanup Committee, which includes:

  • Storm Water Management Authority, Inc.
  • Jefferson County Department of Health
  • City of Birmingham Storm Water Program
  • City of Bessemer Storm Water Program
  • The Freshwater Land Trust
  • Keep Birmingham Beautiful
  • Alabama Power’s Renew Our Rivers
  • Jefferson County Commission Office
  • And other local municipalities

What is Renew Our Rivers?

Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
Each year, Renew Our Rivers cleanups remove—literally—tons of trash from Alabama rivers, lakes, creeks and streams. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

The Valley Creek Cleanup is just one of dozens of waterway cleanups each year that are part of Alabama Power’s award-winning Renew Our Rivers campaign.

Renew Our Rivers traces its roots to the year 2000, when a group of Alabama Power employees at Plant Gadsden became concerned about the amount of litter they saw along the Coosa River. Since then, volunteers with Renew Our Rivers have removed more than 13.5 million pounds of trash and debris from Alabama’s rivers, lakes and creeks.

“As Alabamians, we have a responsibility to take care of our state. Since Valley Creek runs into Bankhead Lake and eventually into Mobile Bay, that trash you see on the side of the road in Midfield will one day wind up in the Bay—unless it’s picked up.”

Mike Clelland, Environmental Specialist, Alabama Power
Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
Valley Creek is even more beautiful when not polluted by trash. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

With over 77,000 miles of rivers and streams, Alabama’s freshwater waterways are among the most biologically diverse in the world and have more freshwater biodiversity than anywhere else in the United States. However, that biodiversity is threatened by trash and other pollutants that wind up in the water.

“It depends on the year, but we’ve removed as much as 30 tons of trash from Alabama waterways in a year. We’re always excited to have the community come out and see that the litter that runs off our streets goes directly into these creeks.”

Scott Hofer, Public Health Engineer, Jefferson County Department of Health

Click here to learn how to get involved with a future Renew Our Rivers cleanup.

Hear Why Volunteers Love Renew Our Rivers

Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
Let’s give a warm round of applause to these volunteers for their work in cleaning up Valley Creek! (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Why did dozens of Midfield residents—and volunteers from as far as Gadsden—spend their Saturday poking around Valley Creek for trash? Here’s what a few volunteers had to say.

“This water in Valley Creek eventually winds up in the Warrior River, which is where a lot of Birmingham’s drinking water comes from, so it’s beneficial for us to keep this stream free from debris. We’ve got a great group of volunteers that call Midfield home, and we’re just trying to do what we can to make it better.”

David, Midfield resident
Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
Children aged 12-15 can participate in Renew Our Rivers in-creek cleanups, if accompanied by an adult. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

“Yesterday and even this morning, I saw people just throwing their trash right out of their car. It’s so disgusting! If you want your community to look clean, you can’t expect others to do it for you—you need to get involved yourself. That’s why I’m here!”

Bridget, Midfield resident
Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
Don’t want to get your feet wet? You can always join the roadside cleanup crew! (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

“I lived in Midfield for years, and it’s still home for me. I’ve been participating in these cleanups for about six years now, and it’s a great opportunity for these high school kids to have fun while doing volunteer work to keep their community clean.”

Master Sergeant Eddie L. Richard, Junior ROTC Instructor, Midfield High School

How You Can Participate in Future Cleanups

Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
You never know what you’ll find while participating in a Renew Our Rivers cleanup! (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

“Eventually, the trash you see on the roadway will wind up in our creeks—which impacts our aquatic life and ultimately our own drinking water. That’s why we want everyone to get involved in keeping our environment healthy! It doesn’t have to be Valley Creek—you can research ways to get involved with your local neighborhood association, your schools and even your employer to find ways to get involved.”

Jonika Smith, Environmental Health Specialist, Jefferson County Department of Health

With dozens of cleanups each year scattered throughout Alabama, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with Alabama Power’s Renew Our Rivers.

Renew Our Rivers / Alabama Power
You can make a difference by joining other volunteers at a Renew Our Rivers cleanup. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

2022 Renew Our Rivers Schedule:

  • Sept. 16: Smith Lake (Cullman County)
  • Sept. 20-21: Smith Lake (Walker County)
  • Sept. 22-23: Smith Lake (Winston County)
  • Sept. 23-24: Village Creek
  • Sept. 26-Oct. 1: Neely Henry Lake (Coosa River)
  • Oct. 4: Dog River (Mobile County)

“I would encourage anyone to come out and participate in at least one of these Renew Our Rivers cleanups, even if it’s not in your city. Who wants to live in a place that has litter or trash everywhere? You really don’t appreciate the importance of clean waterways until you get out here and see for yourself.”

Councilwoman Wendy Merriweather, City of Midfield

Learn more about taking care of Alabama’s beautiful waterways by reaching out to the Renew Our Rivers team and getting involved.

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Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer with Bham Now | Originally from Tennessee, Nathan moved to The Magic City after graduating from Birmingham-Southern College. Nathan is passionate about recognizing Birmingham's history and is thrilled to learn more about the big things planned for The Magic City's future.

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