I-Team: Garbage piling up in Neuse River

EASTERN WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Capital Area Greenways are supposed to be a refuge into North Carolina's natural beauty, but a recent buildup of trash is ruining that calm.

"We were speechless at first," Kim Townsend, who frequents the trail with her husband, Wayne, lamented to the ABC11 I-Team. "We both just stood here like disbelief really - was our initial response. Where did all of this come from?"

Townsend said she first noticed the garbage a few months ago piling up under a bridge where Mial Plantation Road crosses the Neuse River. Each week they returned the mounds grew larger and larger.

"First thing was I was almost nauseated to think that many people could've been that careless for it to occur like that and pile up," Townsend added. "Just crazy. I just hate seeing it."

As the Neuse River flows from Falls Lake, there's no exact way to pinpoint where the garbage is coming from; everything from bottles to cans to sports equipment could've been swept up by the rain into a drain or it could simply be litter.

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What's definitely known, however, is where the trash is headed - downstream toward New Bern and then into Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

"You don't need to be real technical to know you have a bunch of pollutants into the Neuse River, it's going to affect the species that are there," Bo Howes, with Triangle Land Conservancy, explained to ABC11. "Birds, egrets, herons - they eat those fish, they eat those mussels. They'll be affected because they're taking those things in."

As a land trust, Triangle Land Conservancy aims to own or manage spaces adjacent to waterways to preserve natural habitats and prevent garbage build ups like the one happening on the Neuse River.

Howes also warned that the dirtier the water, the more likely residents will have to pay for utilities to clean that water.

"Your water bill is going to go up because it costs Raleigh more, it costs Clayton more to filter that water, make it so it's potable, and make it so it can be used for all the uses that we make of it."

Sound Rivers is a Triangle organization that organizes big cleanup projects along the Neuse and Tar Rivers.

Matthew Starr, one of three full-time river keepers, told the I-Team the cleanups usually remove up to eight tons of trash every year.

"There is a tremendous amount of trash to be removed from the river," Starr said. "However, there are things folks can do in their everyday life to reduce the amount of trash in our rivers. You can take part in an organized cleanup or have a cleanup in your local community. If trash is on the side of the road, it will more than likely wind up in our water."

To help with the next cleanup, visit Sound Rivers'website.
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