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Helping Hands
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You've heard the adage big things come in small packages. It's also been said the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. If you ask the Casale family, you'll probably get a thumbs up on both accounts.

By working together, three Covington boys received recognition Wednesday at the Newton County Board of Commissioners' meeting for their cleanup efforts of a small private spring in February.

Laurie Riley, education program specialist for Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful, presented 11-year-old Mathew Casale, Cody Lowe, 13, and Brett Casale, 10, with Certificates of Appreciation for Environmental Stewardship, as well as $20 Blockbuster gift cards.

"We wanted to recognize them because it takes a tremendous amount of initiative for anyone to do something like that, let alone kids," Riley said.

The boys removed 64 bags of oil-soaked debris from the spring off Tanyard Road. According to property owner Shannon Casale, the bags of waste totaled 1,500 pounds when weighed at the landfill.

The Casales originally discovered approximately 10 gallons of used motor oil in the small feeder spring. The mess proved especially disturbing considering the spring empties into a small fishing pond further down the trail.

After the authorities informed the Casales they were responsible for removing the waste, the boys volunteered to clean the site even at the expense of precious vacation time from winter break.

"We are all very proud of the boys," Shannon Casale said of the young work crew. "They came out here at 8 a.m. on a Saturday during their winter break and they didn't have to, so we're very happy they helped us out."

It is unknown how long the oil had been in the spring, but one thing was obvious: removing the waste was going to be a difficult task.

The spring sits approximately 15 feet below the walking trail and is inaccessible to motorized vehicles. The Casales knew the debris would have to be removed by hand.

To solve the problem, the boys devised a pulley and rope system to hoist buckets of waste from the base of the spring to the surface, where they bagged and staged the material for removal. Casale's husband transferred the bags from the dump-site to the base of the trail using a small trailer and a 4-wheel ATV before disposing of it at the landfill.

"When I fist saw the oil, I didn't know how we were going to clean it up," she said. "But Mathew came up with an idea to use ropes and buckets, and that's how we got the debris out."

Shannon said even though it took the boys all day to clean the site, the trio was self-motivated and asked for nothing in return.

"The boys were really upset just like we were," she said. "They come up here and play all the time so it made them mad. They felt like they had to do something to help clean up the mess. I just took them to eat at Waffle House for breakfast, then we got to work."

While the water is now clean, the family would still like to know who dumped the oil in their spring. Shannon says the family walks the trail regularly and will keep a sharp eye out in the future.