Anchorage creek cleanup is underway

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 5:33 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For the next few days, hundreds of Anchorage residents will be donning boots and waders, not to fish, but to clean up the creeks that fish live in.

The Anchorage Creek Cleanup is in its 37th year, according to Anchorage Waterways Council Director Cherie Northon.

Northon said a record 40-plus teams have signed up to clean local creeks in an event that runs through next Tuesday. Sites are listed on the council’s website, but Northon said anyone is welcome to participate, even if they are not on a recognized team.

“People can always just pick up a bag and go along an area and pick up what they see,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities around Anchorage anyway to pick up trash, so we would encourage them, if you are not doing a creek cleanup, clean along the roadways or in your neighborhood even.”

Northon said Anchorage creeks are a lot cleaner than they were in the mid-1980s when raw sewage prompted then-Mayor Tony Knowles to call for citizens to come together and work to improve water quality. Still, she said, bacteria like fecal coliform remains a problem.

“Every urban creek in Anchorage and the bowl has fecal coliform impairment, which means it doesn’t meet standards set by EPA and the State of Alaska for clean water,” she said.

Northon said those standards are set for drinking water, and not necessarily recreational waters. She believes most of the problem can be attributed to people’s pets.

“We still deal with a lot of pet and human waste,” she said. “Human waste from homeless encampments and leaking septic systems. But the biggest culprit, I think, is pet waste that’s not picked up.”

Northon said people who volunteer to clean should avoid homeless camps, and they should also be careful in the water since local creeks may be running high.

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