Lake Norman & Mooresville

Big Sweep is a chance to clean up

Lake Norman residents across four counties will pitch in Oct. 1 to help keep the lake beautiful.

The statewide Big Sweep is an event when residents can help pick up litter around local waterways as well as to learn about environmental protection.

Last year, more than 18,443 residents across the state collected more than 521,000 pounds of trash over the course of about 84,000 volunteer hours.

In the Lake Norman area, about 250 volunteers picked up 9,480 pounds of trash - including 32 tires - last year.

"It's a group of people working together to keep our area clean," said Jane Begert, the Lincoln County organizer for Big Sweep.

Litter can prove detrimental for several of the microsystems on the lake, according to NC Big Sweep's website.

For instance, litter can attract disease-carrying mosquitoes or rodents. It can also cause hazardous chemicals to leach into the lake as they decompose.

Animals may mistake the litter for food, which can then clog their digestive tracts, leading to slow starvation. Or animals may become trapped in the litter and be unable to free themselves.

Litter is especially problematic on the lake's islands, where boaters will often stop for lunch, said Begert.

The Island Adoption program, which allows people to adopt islands on the lake, tries to address that issue year-round.

Begert said she's responsible for two islands - one of which is a little more than 1.5 acres and another which is much smaller.

She said over the last couple of years, she's noticed a decline in the amount of litter on her islands, although there's still room for improvement.

"It's gotten a lot better as far as people picking up their own trash," she said. "A lot of it is island education. I have two signs on that island with Duke Energy's rules and regulations as far as island usage."

Some of those rules established by Duke Energy include no overnight camping and no burning. Visitors also can't take any vegetation off the island.

Begert said the Big Sweep event is a perfect complement to the Island Adoption program because it encourages the clean-up of all types of waterways, not just the lake.

She added that she is looking forward to organizing Lincoln County's Big Sweep, although she hopes that more people will sign up to participate before the Oct. 1 event.

Thus far, she's only confirmed a few volunteers, she said.

"This is the big event for the year," said Begert. "Let's do a big sweep of the islands and the shoreline and help make a difference."