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Volunteers are still cleaning up Mill Creek, one year after flash flooding

Volunteers clean up Mill Creek
Posted at 3:40 PM, Apr 30, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's been a little more than a year since devastating flash flooding destroyed homes and scattered litter all around the Mill Creek area in South Nashville.

A year later, you'd still never begin to guess what all has washed up in Whitsett Park. "The bumper of a car, license plate," said Jay Renfro, a volunteer.

"Oh this is a deodorizer, this looks like it has chloride in it," said Kathleen Dennis, Director of the Mill Creek Watershed Association. "You know that’s just sitting here, leaching into our environment."

Some of this is just every day litter, but a vast majority all came from the April 2021 flood. "There was a warehouse that got flooded," said Dennis.

April 14, 2021, flash flooding overtook R.J. Schinner, a restaurant supply warehouse, leaving Mill Creek masked in plastic. Hands on Nashville and other volunteer groups worked for several weekends to get as much as they could up, and made a lot of progress. Yet, more than a year later, some parts of the creek bank still look untouched. "It does seem overwhelming," said Dennis.

That's why Dennis gathered members of the Mill Creek Watershed Association and Vanderbilt University students to try to make another dent in the mess. "We really all need to adopt the attitude that we’re stewards of our ecosystems and we’re stewards of our clean water," said Dennis.

Already, they're seeing examples of wildlife, like crayfish, strangled by plastic. "This is the only home this organism has," she said.

It will take a lot more cleanups like this to fully restore Mill Creek. "It’s one that people will see on the news or hear about and then let other people take care of it, but it really is our problem," said Renfro.

But if you ask these volunteers, one less piece of litter is one step closer to their goal. "We’ve got so much work to do but I think it’s valuable and we’ll make a difference," said Dennis.

You may remember -- R.J Schinner is suing their insurance carrier to get them to cover the full cost of the cleanup. That process -- is still tied up in legal proceedings.