Isaiah Hanna

Isaiah Hanna

Pollution is one of many problems plaguing the environment today. When living in a semi-rural community like Sylva, one would think that pollution would not be as prevalent. Unfortunately, even rural communities are not safe from the effects of pollution.

Scotts Creek was cleaned up recently by the town of Sylva, Chapter 373 of Trout Unlimited, the Western Carolina University Fly Fishing Club and WCU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.

We revisited some of them to hear more about  the story.

Scotts Creek runs through downtown Sylva and downtown Dillsboro, two of the area’s most visited and active locations. While both places have wonderful attractions, there’s nothing attractive about the pollution plaguing Scotts Creek.

Tom Lenehan, a member of Chapter 373, described what the creek looked like prior to this year’s cleanup: “It had a lot of lumber, rugs, household trash, fast food containers and beer bottles in and around it. There’s a little area that’s wide enough for you to pull off the road, and I believe what people were doing was going out there at night and throwing out whatever was in their pickups. It’s sad because they’re 5 miles from the transfer station.” 

“Scotts Creek is right beside the road,” said Andy Hansen, criminal justice professor and member of the WCU Fly Fishing Club. “There was lots of household trash, old appliances and construction debris. This is the third year this cleanup has been around, and every year it just seems to mount back up. It’s super frustrating because the dump is literally right down the road.”

Hansen and Lenehan both say they primarily find household trash and tires in the creek. In their years of doing the cleanup, though, they occasionally find something odd in the creek.

“I’ve seen parts of a toilet and parts of a refrigerator in the creek before,” Lenehan said. “I’d say the strangest thing I’ve seen is a big metal stove.”

“The most uncommon things I’ve found are a washing machine and a sofa,” Hansen said. “A long time ago a train carrying some marble crashed near the creek, so there’s just large chunks of white marble in and near the creek.”

As one can imagine, carrying tires, stoves and discarded construction equipment out of a creek with flowing water up a steep embankment can be quite difficult. The organizations that contributed to the cleanup had to use many different tools to get items out of the creek and onto trucks to haul away.

“The Department of Public Works gave us a claw machine to help get stuff out of the creek,” Hansen said. “When things like truck bed liners get in the creek, we had to use a rig to wrap a cable around it and pull it up the hill. It was like one of those things you see on a mining show.”

“They also gave us a bulldozer that was on a cable and a truck with a pulley on it,” Lenehan said. “We used our hands as well because there’s a lot of sharp objects and they’re really dirty.”

The Scotts Creek cleanup draws about 40-50 volunteers each year. Chapter 373 of Trout Unlimited helps out and organizes many clean up events throughout the year such as Cleaning up the Mountains and the Tuck River Clean Up. Students and Sylva locals are highly encouraged to come out to both events to help keep Western North Carolina bright and beautiful for many generations to come.

For more info on cleanups, check out the Trout Unlimited Facebook page, and for anyone interested in fly fishing visit the WCU Fly Fishing Club’s Instagram and Facebook.

Isaiah Hanna is a senior at Western Carolina and majoring in criminology/criminal justice.