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Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful receives a $180,000 grant from TDOT to continue cleanup efforts

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful said the grant money will be put to good use as part of a five-part work plan to remove tens of thousands of pounds of trash.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knoxville-based nonprofit organization dedicated to cleaning up the Tennessee River watershed announced has received a new $180,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to support its ongoing mission for the next two years.

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful said the grant money will be put to good use as part of a five-part work plan to remove tens of thousands of pounds of trash and install new devices that will remove microplastics from the river's waters.

The grant will be used to purchase ten new Seabin devices in addition to two they received from their parent agency, Keep America Beautiful, which the organization said are essentially large electric skimmers attached to docks that work 24/7 to remove up to 3,000 pounds of trash and debris from the water in one year -- for a potential. Those devices also filter out oils, gasoline, and microplastics from the water.

“This part of the grant is particularly exciting for us because until now, our efforts have been to prevent microplastics,” said Gibi. “For the first time, we now have the opportunity to literally remove them from the river’s waters.”

The group said they ran a pilot test on two Seabin devices they received in early 2021 at Volunteer Landing Marina and Louisville Landing Marina in the Knoxville area. The ten devices will be installed at partnering marinas on the Tennessee River and its tributaries -- saying this will make it the largest network of these devices in the United States and will be be capable of potentially removing 42,000 pounds of trash from the water each year.

The agency is also using the grant money to install storm drain catch nets to catch litter and provide reports back to TDOT. It plans to install one in Knoxville that KTNRB staff will monitor and maintain, and hopes to get other partners on board along the Tennessee River system to help maintain others.

 "Experts have found that 80% of the litter in our waterways was originally littered on land, often then washed or blown by storms into our storm drain systems, streams, and ultimately rivers," KTNRB said. "Tennessee’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee litter prevention campaign estimates that there are 100 million pieces of litter on the state’s roadways at any given time."

The rest of the grant money will go toward continued major cleanup efforts across East Tennessee, supporting the cigarette litter prevention program, and enabling the community "Adopt a River Mile/Storm Drain" programs.

“This work plan represents a strategic effort that we’ve been working toward for the last couple of years, and it’s really commendable that TDOT sees the need to make such an investment the Tennessee River watershed, the original transportation system for our region,” said Gibi.

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