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COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia is getting a jump start on its 9th Annual Hinkson Clean Sweep. Volunteers had to sign up by Wednesday to pick up trash at 15 sites in the watershed region. The program is expanding this year from nine sites last year.

"We've  gotten a head start this year. There were so many people who wanted to help out, but couldn't make the actual event so they have started cleaning up along other sites that really need the work that we normally can't get to," said Stormwater Educator Mike Heimos.

All storm drains on city, county, neighborhood and campus streets drain directly to local waterways. Any substance that goes into a storm drain goes directly into a local stream.

"People don't realize that the trash they throw in the drains are going directly to bodies of water in the watershed. These storm drains are untreated and pollute local streams with the trash and chemicals people dump in them," said Heimos.

But picking up trash along the side of the river may not help reduce the amount of bacteria and pollutants in the stream.

"While it may make the Hinkson look nice, it most certainly won't be safe to touch or support animal life any time soon," said Sierra Conservation Chairman Ken Midkiff.

Hinkson Clean Sweep will take place Saturday. Of the 15 sites to be cleaned, crews will work five on the day of the event. 250 volunteers have signed up.