Even containers of dangerous chemicals.
They’re just a few of the things Lenny Peterson finds in Boone Lake when he and his family volunteer to clean the lake every April.
Efforts to rid the lake of trash and debris appear to be never-ending, according to Peterson, who serves as a quality control manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority. He says it never takes long to fill one dumpster when he volunteers at the Rockingham Marina each year.
“I’ve actually found batteries, lighter fluid (containers) — things that are very dangerous to the environment,” Peterson said. “But when we found that people had thrown vacuum cleaners in the lake, that was quite shocking. We also found two flat screen TVs and a toaster oven.”
Throughout the TVA service area, TVA Natural Resources has partnered with volunteer cleanup organizations like the Boone Lake Association, which holds an annual cleanup at the lake each year.
Every year, the TVA’s Reservoir and Community Cleanup Fund supports efforts in the TVA service area and provides more than $5,000 to each nonprofit organization’s team of volunteers to pay for food and refreshments, trash bags, gloves, litter grabbers, safety items, boat rentals, dumpsters and more to help get the job done.
“Many volunteers continue supporting cleanup efforts in their community following these type of events. Lenny is a great example — he and his family have volunteered with the Boone Lake Association Clean-Up for three years in a row. That’s dedication,” Community Cleanup Fund Manager Martha Podren said in a TVA news release, adding that the fund has provided more than $155,000 to organizations supporting cleanup efforts throughout the service area.
Without the help of volunteers like Peterson and his family, Boone Lake Association President Val Kosmider said it’d be much more difficult to keep the aquatic ecosystem’s garbage problem at bay.
Kosmider said the association found about eight tons of tires, two tons of plastic foam and about 10-and-a-half tons of other types of miscellaneous trash during the Boone Lake Association Clean Up on April 28.
“It’s just staggering. We find everything from needles, to diapers, to refrigerators, to old couch cushions, tires, soda bottles and everything else imaginable,” Kosmider said, adding that the total trash collected was about 20.8 tons compared to 16 tons last year.
Despite the staggering amount of junk and pollutants, Peterson and his family continue to try to do their part to clean the mess. Each year, Peterson and his wife, Sandi, bring more volunteers, including their daughter, Ashley, and grandchildren, Will Pasley, 8, and Ke'Lynn Enalls, 17, to the lake to help teach them how to lead by example.
“The valley has been good to me, and I feel blessed giving back to the community. I enjoy getting out there,” Peterson said. “It's amazing to go to the same marina for three years, and you think you did a good job last year and you come back and still find dumpsters full of trash.
“When they find trash, I want them to properly dispose of it and recycle.”
Upcoming local cleanups include South Holston Lake, sponsored by the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, on Aug. 11 and Watauga Lake cleanup, sponsored by the Watauga Watershed Alliance, on Sept. 8.
For organizations and community volunteers planning to host a river, lake or reservoir cleanup effort, visit www.TVA.gov.