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Group spends day gathering Lanier trash

LAKE LANIER - Some environmental advocates said there's one positive thing about the drought that has brought Lake Lanier to historically low levels: It gives people a chance to clean up some of the trash that has sat on the lake's bottom for years.

About 50 people on Saturday collected trash that had become exposed as the lake level has dropped. Jack Perko, district manager of Allied Waste Services, estimated that a couple tons of waste was collected - and only a fraction of the shoreline was cleaned up.

Along with an assortment of bottles, cans and sunglasses, the trash collectors found a cell phone, a set of keys, a boat and a watch that was still ticking.

"I bet it started with, 'Hey, catch these keys,'" said Randy Brogdon, an environmental attorney at Troutman Sanders. "Someone didn't make the catch."

Sam Kukler, one of several children who helped gather trash, said it was fun cleaning up the environment.

"Some people litter too much," said Sam, who will be 8 this month.

His mother, Kim Kukler, said she brought her

children to help because she felt it would be educational. She said her family is doing their part around the house to conserve water, but she wanted her boys to see how the drought has transformed the lake.

Saturday's event was organized after Ed Hood, a regional engineer with Allied Waste, called Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Sally Bethea to see if they could partner together to clean up a river. They decided to come to Lake Lanier after a storm moved the trash away from their previously identified spot.

"This is a great time to pick up trash that would normally be on the bottom of the lake," said Bethea, the executive director of the Riverkeeper group.

Bonny Putney, a board member of Rivers Alive, said a group will gather from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Mary Alice Park in Cumming to continue to the cleanup.

Putney said she was thrilled to see how much trash was collected. The Buford resident said she lives on the lake, and she often feels overwhelmed when she sees how much trash has been exposed.

Putney said she encourages people to help remove the trash.

"This is our drinking water," Putney said. "We'll do anything we can to make it cleaner and protect it."