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What’s with the Trash in the Creeks? - River Booms Explained 
First Creek River Boom
The river boom at the mouth of First Creek in the Tennessee River after a cleaning.

River booms are devices used to keep objects from distributing into a body of water—whether it’s logs, oil, or in many cases, trash.

“A lot of times (the litter) ends up in the streets, it gets in a storm drain; storm drains lead to the creeks; creeks into the river,” explained Jake Hudson, River Captain at Ijams Nature Center. “We use it as a collection point, instead of trying to chase bottles out here in the river.”

Booms are made of two parts: 1) the upper buoyant rope that traps the litter; and 2) an underwater curtain held down by heavy chains to keep it in place.

Knoxville’s introduction to river booms began with the Isaak Walton League, a national non-profit conservation organization with emphasis on natural water quality. The local chapter approached the City to begin installing nets along major creeks in order to capture trash and protect the river. It was eventually determined that nets would be an inappropriate solution due to lack of strength.

That’s when experts in the City’s Stormwater Engineering Division realized river booms were the answer, primarily because of their capacity to catch large amounts of trash.

“River booms have helped clean tens of tons in garbage over the years,” said David Hagerman, Stormwater Engineering Manager. “Last year alone, nine tons (18,000 pounds) of debris were removed from downtown’s ‘No Trash Zone,’ which stretches from the Forks of the River to Sequoyah Park.”

The City currently contracts Ijams Nature Center to clean out the three river booms in City limits on a weekly basis.

“Of course, we realize the trash collected by the booms at the mouths of our creeks is unsightly—but at least it’s not polluting our river and causing damage to water vehicles like it did before,” said Hagerman. “On the flip side, the visible trash (collected around the booms) creates awareness—it helps people realize that there is a problem here that can be prevented.”

Accumulated trash at a river boom
Accumulated trash and debris at a river boom

The best way to prevent river pollution is to properly dispose of garbage. For example, a loose bottle on Broadway is one rainstorm away from ending up in a creek.

If you’d like to take your water quality efforts even further, be sure to give Ijams a hand during its next annual River Rescue held in the spring. Last year, more than 1,000 volunteers removed over 12 tons of debris from the river. Hagerman also attributes the rediscovered, vibrant river recreation explosion in Knoxville to the introduction of the City’s river booms.

“As one would imagine, it has done wonders for the local wildlife,” Hudson added. “On the water I've seen otters, beavers, even bald eagles now returning to our rivers downtown.”
To get involved, reach out to one of several local non-profits striving to improve East Tennessee’s waters:

Ijams Nature Center

Tennessee Clean Water Network

Water Quality Forum

This City Blog was written by Jamar Coach, Communications Intern.
Posted by On 20 July, 2017 at 11:08 AM