Part­ner­ship looks to pro­tect lo­cal water qual­ity

The Covington News - - LOCAL - BY SAN­DRA BRANDS sbrands@cov­news.com

In the last year, 27 vol­un­teers have been trained to mon­i­tor a stream site and re­port the re­sults, keep­ing track of po­ten­tial pol­lu­tion prob­lems and en­vi­ron­men­tal changes.

The vol­un­teers are the re­sult of a part­ner­ship be­tween the Yel­low River Water Trail (YRWT), the Ge­or­gia Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion (GWF) and the City of Cov­ing­ton, of­fer­ing the work­shops and al­low­ing the Yel­low River Water Trail to use the web lab and equip­ment at the Al­covy Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter on Hazel­brand Road.

Ac­cord­ing to Tamela Mills, GAAS Com­mu­nity Co­or­di­na­tor and Trainer for the Yel­low River Water Trails, Kevin Sor­row, Cov­ing­ton’s ar­borist, pro­vides sup­plies such as chem­i­cals and bac­te­rial films, as part of the city’s Best Man­age­ment Prac­tices pro­gram, so that vol­un­teers have the tools and train­ing needed to gather re­li­able data.

“Ge­or­gia Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion and the City of Cov­ing­ton have been won­der­ful part­ners. We are grate­ful for their col­lab­o­ra­tion and shared re­sources, and we’re ex­cited to be mon­i­tor­ing more wa­ter­ways,” said Mills.

GAAS is a pro­gram of the Ge­or­gia En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Divi­sion to pro­mote and track water qual­ity statewide.

Mills said that when a vol­un­teer adopts a stream site they be­come re­spon­si­ble for monthly mon­i­tor­ing. Re­sults are re­ported, rais­ing aware­ness of po­ten­tial pol­lu­tion prob­lems in a com­mu­nity, build­ing a base­line of water qual­ity data so en­vi­ron­men­tal changes are more eas­ily rec­og­nized, and in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of de­tect­ing pol­lu­tion prob­lems quickly.

“More trained eyes on the wa­ters leads to faster and more ef­fec­tive pol­lu­tion de­tec­tion,” Mills said. “The YRWT is the only GAAS [Ge­or­gia Adopt-A-Stream] train­ing pro­gram in a six-county area, but it also serves en­vi­ron­men­tal en­thu­si­asts any­where in the state, which is a stan­dard pol­icy for GAAS pro­grams. A state park staff per­son from He­len, Ge­or­gia, was one of the first work­shop at­ten­dees in New­ton a year ago. She has since be­come a trainer her­self through the park.

As a re­sult of the part­ner­ship, 13 work­shops in bacte- rial, chem­i­cal and macroin­ver­te­brate mon­i­tor­ing have been held. The 27 peo­ple who trained earned 48 cer­tifi­cates. As the pro­gram gains vis­i­bil­ity, YRWT hopes to serve more and con­tinue work to­wards im­prov­ing lo­cal water qual­ity, Mills said. Tack­ling water mon­i­tor­ing Mills re­ports that New­ton County has new and ded­i­cated vol­un­teers tack­ling water mon­i­tor­ing in the area. They in­clude:

Jill Wood­ward, who mon­i­tors Cor­nish Creek on the Ge­or­gia Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion grounds;

Dave Sh­effield, has adopted Big Haynes Creek, the north­ern-most tributary in New­ton;

Smitty Smith, Skip Davis, Terry McMil­lan, Al Ved­der and Jared Go­den, mem­bers of the Jack­son Lake Home­own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, have been lake mon­i­tors for sev­eral years. They are the only group in the area to use ad­vanced mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment that is be­ing trial tested by the state GAAS of­fice. This group has also adopted sev­eral new strate­gies to bet­ter mon­i­tor the down­stream ends of the South, Yel­low and Al­covy rivers as they en­ter Jack­son Lake;

De­bra Grif­fith, YRWT Chair and a mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist by pro­fes­sion, has taken on the monthly task of mon­i­tor­ing three Yel­low River trib­u­taries— Gum Creek, Nor­ton’s Branch and Beaverdam Creek;

Kemily Pat­tillo, AP Chem­istry Teacher at the New­ton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy, is re­viv­ing a water mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram that for­mer en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence teacher Jim Stansell man­aged un­til he re­tired about three years ago. Pat­tillo’s STEM stu­dents will be con­duct­ing water mon­i­tor­ing on the banks of the Yel­low River. This will be the only stu­dent pro­gram in the county.

Chris­tian Go­erner, a YRWT Sum­mer In­tern and Wof­ford Col­lege Se­nior, as­sisted in a two-month stream buf­fer study of Town Branch Creek in down­town Cov­ing­ton this sum­mer us­ing chem­i­cal test­ing and vis­ual stream sur­vey tools.

Mills tests on Town Branch Creek at Re­becca Street, at the tributary by New­ton High School and spot test­ing county-wide. She also con­ducted the buf­fer study on Town Branch Creek, look­ing at ero­sion and water qual­ity in 16 sites along the two-mile creek. Mills has been in­volved in GAAS for four years and was first trained by Phillips. Up­loaded to a state data­base The data gath­ered is up­loaded to a statewide data- base avail­able for any­one to ob­serve, Mills said. Us­ing the data­base, peo­ple can track water qual­ity, iden­tify pol­lu­tion, re­search en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns and raise aware­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to Harold Har­bert, the Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Na­tional Re­sources (DNR) En­vi­ron­men­tal Out­reach Man­ager over GAAS, the most rec­og­nized mon­i­tor­ing event in New­ton County oc­curred sev­eral years ago when for­mer GAAS Trainer Robert Phillips dis­cov­ered spoiled eggs from a chicken farm on a lo­cal river were be­ing dumped into the wa­ter­way. The is­sue was quickly ad­dressed.

Three pri­mary cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are avail­able through GAAS and of­fered lo­cally are:

Bac­te­rial mon­i­tor­ing de­tects E. coli pop­u­la­tions, an in­di­ca­tor species for other path­o­genic bac­te­ria. If high lev­els of bac­te­ria are de­tected, an as­sess­ment of pos­si­ble sources will be gath­ered and the state and lo­cal agen­cies may be con­tacted to trou­bleshoot.

Chem­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing is a brief snap­shot of the health of the stream us­ing pH, tem­per­a­ture, ion con­duc­tiv­ity and dis­solved oxy­gen. This is use­ful for de­tect­ing on­go­ing pol­lu­tion such as leak­ing pipes and lawn chem­i­cal run-off. Salt spread on roads dur­ing a win­ter storm would be de­tected with ba­sic chem­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing for a few days and then gone, but the ef­fects would be long-last­ing, Mills said.

Those long-last­ing ef­fects are de­tected with macroin­ver­te­brate mon­i­tor­ing. Macro-in­ver­te­brates are small, fresh water-dwelling in­sect lar­vae, crus­taceans and worms. Dragon­fly and dam­sel­fly lar­vae, aquatic worms and cray­fish are a few found lo­cally. This tool gives a lon­grange health pro­file. A sign that water qual­ity has de­te­ri­o­rated is find­ing only pol­lu­tion-tol­er­ant macro-in­ver­te­brates in the stream or river. Trained eyes, Mills said, can look for causes. If species known to be very sen­si­tive to pol­lu­tion are found, then the water qual­ity has been and con­tin­ues to be high.

“Think of th­ese [macroin­ver­te­brates] as the ca­naries in the mine shafts, but they choose to live in a given area. Mon­i­tors sim­ply look to see which ones are present,” said Mills.

Up­com­ing train­ing work­shops

Fall work­shops will take place in the evenings in Oc­to­ber.

A bac­te­rial mon­i­tor­ing work­shop will be on Thurs­day, Oct. 13, from 5 to 9 p.m. Chem­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing will be held Tues­day, Nov. 15 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Space is lim­ited and regis­tra­tion is re­quired. To reg­is­ter for a work­shop and adopt a sec­tion of the stream, con­tact Mills at mills.tamela@gmail.com.

Sub­mit­ted photo | The Cov­ing­ton News

On the banks of Cor­nish Creek, Tamela Mills, GAAS Co­or­di­na­tor and Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist, dis­cusses how to choose a test site dur­ing a chem­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing work­shop on the grounds of Ge­or­gia Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion’s Al­covy Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter.

Sub­mit­ted photo | The Cov­ing­ton News

Katherine Hud­speth and her daugh­ter Vir­ginia of Avon­dale Es­tates are prac­tic­ing chem­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing in the field at Ge­or­gia Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion in Cov­ing­ton.

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