Thong underwear, stove parts, a boat gas tank and hundreds of beer bottles were among debris collected Saturday from the May River and the streets of old town Bluffton.
"There is an awful of garbage floating around out there," said Dutch Shultis, head of the Kayak Club of Sun City. "Mostly bottles and cans."
Shultis and his friend, Gary Lausch, were among nearly 200 volunteers who donned gloves and in some cases life jackets and oars during the 12th annual May River Cleanup held at Oyster Factory Park.
Volunteers fanned out from Stock Farm Road to Alljoy Landing, while teams in kayaks and powerboats covered miles of shoreline and marsh in search of trash, said Kim Jones, water quality program manager for the town of Bluffton, the event's main organizer.
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"One good thing I am hearing from a lot of people is that it's surprisingly clean," she said, adding that volunteers collected two tons of trash in 2010 and about a ton during last year's event.
This year's haul filled a dump truck, but it will a few weeks before it's weighed. Local artist Terry Brennan will use some heavy debris in an art project to be unveiled during a World Oceans Day event June 8.
Doug Currier II and his eight-year-old son Tripp paddled along a half mile stretch of river in search of trash. Team Currier found a balloon and some styrofoam dock pieces but little else.
"I enjoyed the time with my son, but cleaning up other people's trash is not my idea of fun," said Currier, who splits time between Bluffton and Columbia. "I like it when we don't find much."
After the cleanup, participants ate pulled pork from Bluffton BBQ and listened to live music.
An Environmental Education Fair set up in the park featured displays from a local organic farm and May River research conducted by University of South Carolina Beaufort students.
Sophomore Kelsey Metz said several people stopped by to ask questions about the research, which explores genetic changes in May River crabs, among other things. She and fellow students said the event helped show the impact humans are having on the environment.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.