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Lealman cleaner but not litter free

Keep Pinellas Beautiful hits "flood-prone areas."

Published July 2, 2006

LEALMAN - Considering the fact that cleanup efforts have removed more than 400 tons of garbage from this unincorporated area in the past six years, you would think litter would be the least of Lealman's problems.

But you'd be wrong.

Consider some of the junk that six community activists found in and around ditches during a spot check Monday: a shopping cart, chunks of concrete, trash cans.

And that was after a rainstorm, which normally carries trash and debris into the drainage system and out to Joe's Creek.

It was part of Keep Pinellas Beautiful's annual litter survey, which is done in a different area of the county each year. The survey serves a dual purpose: to see how bad things are and to scout places to send volunteers for a future cleanup.

Monday's jaunt was the third survey in Lealman, and, despite there being some severe problems, the area was much improved since the first survey about six years ago.

This time around, volunteers targeted "flood-prone areas," said Bill Sanders, executive director of Keep Pinellas Beautiful. The idea was to see if the ditches needed to be cleaned so less debris would clog pipes and cause flooding or be carried into Joe's Creek to cause pollution there.

Before the survey, volunteers who had never been on a litter hunt had to watch a 15-minute video made by Keep America Beautiful. It aims to teach volunteers the difference between a little littered and extremely littered on a 1 to 4 scale, the highest number being the dirtiest.

After the video, volunteers were handed sheets with spaces for each of the nine areas of eastern Lealman that were to be surveyed. Then five of the volunteers clambered into a van provided by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to take the 10-mile tour.

Three people on each side of the van were charged with assessing only the ditches on their side.

And, reminiscent of the Elmer Fudd cartoon in which he said, "Be vewy, vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits," Sanders told the volunteers not to talk - they were hunting litter.

But the instruction did not hold. The volunteers did talk, and, occasionally, they even glanced at the other side of the street.

But in the end, they found litter, lots of it.

The next step will be to get rid of it. That's scheduled for July 22. To get involved in cleanup efforts, call Keep Pinellas Beautiful at (727) 533-0402 or Ray Neri, head of the Lealman Community Association at (727) 527-5352.

[Last modified July 1, 2006, 11:52:02]

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