HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Eight months later and the remnants of Hurricane Matthew and the following floods are still evident in communities. Despite more trash collected than ever, it's not the only thing impacting the waterways.
WMBF News reporter and anchor Meredith Helline kayaked with the Riverkeepers to check out the river's status. The Riverkeepers showed her sunken vessels, sunk during the hurricane, as well a half-sunken docks. Riverkeepers April O'Leary and Cara Schildtknecht explained boats and grills were among the items sunk in the waterways when not tied down properly during the storm. Over time, they said, toxins can leak into the water. Bacteria levels rise during and after storms, however, they return to normal eventually.
"When a flood comes and when storms come, it is important to secure your property: your boats, anything that's outside that could possibly be blown away, or could float away if the flood waters come up that high," Schildtknecht said. "It's very important to secure that kind of things, because otherwise they end up in the river...and that's not good for the river or for people on the river."
However, the sunken vessels, docks and grills aren't their biggest worry - trash is. Thanks to concentrated efforts over the years to clean-up, the Riverkeepers now have data to prove a significant different in the health of Horry County's boat landings and waterways.
According to charts provided by O'Leary, more clean-ups have happened, more people have volunteered for clean-up, and more trash has been collected than ever in 2017. The numbers squash previous records kept for the years 2016, 2015 and 2014.
As of May 2017, 68 clean-ups have been held in Horry County for the calendar year. In 2016, 59 clean-ups were held. In 2015 and 2014, there were 19 and 12 clean-ups, respectively.
More people than ever have volunteered so far in 2017. O'Leary said 861 people have been part of organized efforts to clean-up. In 2016, it was 584 people. In 2015 and 2014, there were 258 and 64 people, respectively.
The trash is what's most astounding. A total of 43,500 pounds of trash have been collected during the first six months of 2017, compared to just 29,345 pounds of trash collected in all of 2016. In 2015, 3,280 pounds of litter was collected and less than 3,000 pounds of trash was collected by the Riverkeeper's clean-ups in 2014.
"We have some really great communities, locally...that are very involved in maintaining and protecting the river which is awesome. I'm just amazed that the community is really involved here. It's really cool," Schildtknecht said.