• Wesley Slucher hunts down discarded debris during the Big Sweep. Photo by BEN KATZ
    Wesley Slucher hunts down discarded debris during the Big Sweep. Photo by BEN KATZ

Big Sweep collects 2,200 pounds of trash

    Hanging Dog – The Big Sweep turned 21 on Sept. 29 and can finally drink out of all the alcohol bottles collected along the shores of Hiwassee Lake.
    The Big Sweep, however, is not a kid all grown up. It is a community led event that has now collected 80 tons of trash in its young life. This year, volunteers hauled in 2,200 pounds of refuse.
    Mainspring Conservation Trust helped lead the event; Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel was represented with volunteers from both the Heroes program and the local Code Green committee; the Tennessee Valley Authority provided trash bags; Duke’s Hideaway Marina lent Boy Scout Troop 400 and a number of Tri-County Early College students and the rest of the 50 volunteers with barges to ferry manpower and rubbish around the reservoir.
    Krista Ongman, Valley River Code Green committee leader, brought four other volunteers with her on this, the second year that Harrah’s has helped to sponsor the Big Sweep. The Code Green committee here at the Valley River Casino has already implemented a plastic, aluminum, and glass recycling infrastructure that will soon be replicated at the Casino & Resort in the Qualla Boundary. They are also investigating responsible and price competitive alternatives to plastic straws.
    Mark Kephart, recently retired from the military, took his blue heeler dogs to six coves along the lake, filling a trash bag in each, and pulling a truck tire out of the mud as well.
    Arrow of Light Scout Vivian McMahon had a lot of fun during the Big Sweep. She found a number of beer and alcohol bottles, filled four bags of trash, and got her wish fulfilled. “I wanted to go in the water…and my wish came true…now I’ve got mashed potato shoes.” She plans on helping out in future Big Sweeps as well.
    Cadence Dilbeck, a fellow Arrow of Light Scout, felt “good because we were cleaning up the community.” Dilbeck was surprised at how old the rubbish they found was, noting that the plastic and glass from bottles was still there after years of weathering.
    Indeed, Hiwassee Dam was finished in 1940. In the 78 years since, an aluminum can from that time is just beginning to decompose, a dirty diaper dumped from Lover’s Leap has another 372 years of dirtying up the reservoir, and an emptied moonshine bottle still has 999,922 years to slice our feet.