It took three years and more than 60 volunteers from seven states to rid Saltpeter Pit of 200 tons of garbage, which created a 45-foot pile of trash affectionately coined “Mount Trashmore” by local cave explorers. The project began after a research team from Bat Conservation International discovered in 2005 that Saltpeter Pit – named so because it was mined for saltpeter, an ingredient in gunpowder, during the War of 1812 – serves as a hibernation site for a colony of more than 500 Rafinesque’s big-eared bats. Rafinesque’s big-eared bats is a rare species, and the Saltpeter Pit colony is thought to be the fourth-largest colony in the world. The massive cleanup project may have been started because of the bats, but other issues – such as clean water came to light. Pulaski County is well known as an area with extensive cave systems and underground networks, which act like a network of pipes, carrying water without giving it a chance to filter through soil. When it rains and water goes in this cave, it is affecting someone’s drinking water, and they may not even know it, so another reason this clean up was so important. The cave also serves as an important archeological site, because remnants of the mine’s heyday still exist within its three passages, one of which was clogged completely by the trash. Now that the trash is gone, the site will be monitored to ensure that no more dumping occurs.
Here is the after picture! What a difference!! For other participants in Ecological Day, you may go here.