TAMPA (FOX 13) - Recent flooding has caused an excessive amount of trash to flow into the Hillsborough River and the mouth of Tampa Bay. Volunteers worked together to clean up the water before another round of possible storms hit on Monday.
"A lot of people move here because of the water. A lot of people live here and really enjoy the water, so we want to help raise awareness about the importance of keeping our waterways clean," said organizer Justin Bloom.
Nearly 200 volunteers with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Suncoast Waterkeepers, Sweetwater Brewing and Urban Kai teamed up on Sunday to remove an anticipated 4,000 pounds of garbage from Tampa Bay.
The event dubbed "Big Float Downtown" began at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Marina, where volunteers boarded kayaks and paddleboards to cruise through the water, scavenging for junk.
"We find bottles, a lot of plastic bags, and some fishing lines," said Bloom.
"There's all sorts of garbage, food, I found a diaper. It's gross," said Michelle Hammond, a Tampa resident who volunteered to clean up while paddle boarding.
Volunteers said cleaning out the water is vital to both the health of the river, the wildlife that inhabit it, and the local economy. A more beautiful waterfront is more enticing for visitors to partake in watersports, like renting kayaks through Urban Kai.
"I noticed all the trash," said Chris Ronning, who is visiting Tampa from Chicago. "We'd go to St Petersburg, and I felt like the downtown St Petersburg area looked just a little bit cleaner than the Tampa area."
As Tampa Bay prepares for heavy rainfall and strong winds from what was Tropical Storm Erika, organizers said more trash will likely flow into the river in the week ahead if flooding occurs.
"With big rain events like we've had over the last month and that we're probably going to have over the next couple of days, everything you see that's loose is going to get carried down into your local creek, local waterway, and it's going to find its way into Tampa Bay," said Bloom.
Volunteers said keeping the water clean will take an ongoing effort from every resident to make environmentally-friendly decisions daily.
"We're all about clean energy and keeping the planet clean. We've got to do our part so that everything stays clean," said Hammond.
All of the trash collected from the water on Sunday was disposed of in a local landfill.