Trash piling up along downtown waterfront as river rises

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Parts of downtown’s waterfront look more like a sewer than a river. Trash and debris is piling up along the shoreline. Stuff like plastic bottles and broken tree limbs.

Tourist Naomi Weissenbach is visiting Memphis for the first time. She and her husband didn’t expect to see garbage in the water at Beale Street Landing.

“It’s shame that there’s so much in the water,” she said.

It’s a similar story on Mud Island where a flooded Greenbelt Park is plagued with debris.

“I mean, I drove up today and I was like ah man, oh no,” Antonio Neal said. “We need our beachfront. That’s what I call it. This my beachfront, my Mississippi River beachfront. We need this back man.”

The ugly problem is caused by a rising Mississippi River with a strong current.

“This is everybody’s trash from up river,” Harry Babb said.

He’s a ranger with Memphis River Parks Partnership, a non-profit that maintains parks along the riverfront.

“As the river comes up it brings a lot of this stuff in here,” he said.

He says crews clean the riverfront year-round, but it’s hard to stay on top of it when the water gets this high. His team is planning a major cleanup, but they have to wait for the water to recede.

“It’s just everything’s so wet and soggy and in the water,” Babb said. “As it comes in we try to do what we can at the time, but it is easier to do large cleanups of drift wood and more material like that once it recedes and we can access it from the ground.”

And that will take some time. The river won’t crest until next week, and the water won’t recede until many days after that.

“I don’t want people coming from out of town, or even from here, and seeing this kind of stuff. It leaves a negative impression,” Babb said.

He says their cleanup team will consist of about 30 to 40 volunteers.

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