Chattahoochee River Keeper: PPE pollution could impact drinking water

The masks and gloves protect those who wear them from the coronavirus, but the Chattahoochee River Keeper said improperly disposed personal protection equipment is harming the environment.

"What people don’t realize, is when they drop a mask in a parking lot or ditch, they’re not just littering," Chattahoochee River Keeper Jason Ulseth said. “They’re polluting our river."

During the last seven months, Georgians have been battling the coronavirus pandemic, people have noticed masks and gloves just tossed n the ground.

Ulseth, who has worked for the river for more than a decade, saID he’s never seen the river filled with so much PPE.

"We’ve pulled millions of pounds of trash out of the river system and gloves and masks have not been something we’ve seen in the past," he said.

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Heavy rain sends trash and debris into the river from places such as parking lots or roadways.

"People always tell me they’re amazed someone threw this into the river. My answer is they didn’t. They threw it into a parking lot. Rainswept it into a storm drain, and then it went into a creek, into a larger creek and into the Chattahoochee," he said.

Ulseth said the plastic gloves and other equipment breaks down and the contaminants can impact the area’s drinking water, although environmentalists are still studying the exact ramifications.

"The Chattahoochee River is the smallest river that provides a water supply to a major metropolitan city in the entire country. So, everything we do in everyday life effects our tiny river which we depend on," he said.

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Thankfully, Ulseth said the solution is simple. He said they’re called disposable masks and gloves for a reason.

"We all have to do our part," he said.

For more information about how to get involved with the Chattahoochee River Keepers, click here.