May 2, 2008

Volunteers from the University of Kentucky, WLEX-TV and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government recently teamed up with volunteers from Lexmark to remove trash from Cane Run Creek and its tributary that flows through Lexmark’s property and family park.

Currently, the creek is unsafe for humans to be in without proper protection. Litter and contaminants have flowed into the creek and affected the water quality for both humans and native species that inhabit the creek and the surrounding area.

“We are concerned about that (water quality) as a company and wanted to see what we could do,” said John Gagel, Lexmark’s manager of sustainable practices-environmental, health and safety, about how the project got started.

In addition, water from the creek travels north to Georgetown, where it supplies some of the city’s drinking water.

“It’s a really big concern because we’re worried about what’s in it now and what the water treatment plant at Georgetown has to do to treat that water to make it drinkable,” said Amanda Abnee Gumbert, UK College of Agriculture water quality extension specialist.

She said the litter in the creek doesn’t come from one specific source, but most likely is a result of people dropping trash on sidewalks and streets in neighborhoods across the city, overflowing trash cans and loose debris flying out from truck beds.

“It’s the accumulation of lots of people doing it,” Gumbert said. “One person throwing one piece of trash out is not a huge issue, but when you have that multiplied by the population that we have in Lexington, it’s big.”

UK’s partnership with Lexmark began when the two joined forces to work to improve the Cane Run watershed.

“Lexmark is a great neighbor on the Cane Run (watershed),” Gumbert said. “They own a lot of property, and they stand to make a big impact in a positive way.”

In 2007, the first year for the project, volunteers picked up about 25 cubic yards of garbage from a section of the creek. This year, volunteers picked up nearly 40 cubic yards of trash and were able to clean the entire section of the watershed on Lexmark’s property.

“It helps the watershed, and it helps our neighbors in Georgetown so that’s why we’re doing it,” Gagel said.

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