Athens waterways aren’t as healthy as the naked eye can see.
A 15-year study conducted by the Upper Oconee Watershed Network showed that several streams in Athens were not healthy. The study tested for conductivity, fecal coliform and dissolved oxygen. Of the nine streams tested, only three of them have improved in the 15 years.
One of the main culprit’s of this decline in health, has been the increased construction around Athens. This has given way to more impervious surfaces which allow for an increase in harmful chemicals to be washed into the waterways when it rains, according to Bruno Giri, a member of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network.
This is especially disconcerting with the possibility of Hurricane Matthew approaching the east coast. With several construction projects in Athens taking place close to rivers and streams, including the Mark, which is less than 100 yards from the North Oconee River, the chance for more runoff into the streams and rivers is a definite possibility.
As far testing for pollution goes, Giri said the organization has quarterly testings where volunteers show up, take samples, and actually learn how to test for different hazardous materials in the water.
Below is how Giri and the Upper Oconee Watershed Network test water in Athens-Clarke County.