Washing away a river of problems

By Diane Wagner

The lake in Candy Erhardt's subdivision was billed as a bird sanctuary, but Erhardt said the too-small detention pond is more like the Mosquito Coast.

But it's the flooding and muck, not the 42 bug bites on her daughter's legs, that finally sent the McDonough woman begging for help.

"One month the lake broke the spillway three separate times," she said. "Our mail lady couldn't deliver to the back of the subdivision because the water was over her tires. We had kids boogie-boarding down the street, and the fish in the pond washed over the road and into the storm drains."

Homeowners in The Plantation subdivision are not the only ones facing rivers of mud every time it rains. Even those not directly affected pay an indirect price when the overflows wind up in local rivers and streams.

"My main concern is the water," said Tim Gilliam, an environmental engineer with the Clayton County Department of Transportation and Development. "All kinds of pollutants adhere to sediment and run into our water supply."

That's why the Georgia Clean Water Campaign is hosting a series of free workshops to help area residents learn what they can do to reduce erosion and prevent water pollution.

"We'll give people an overview of the different phases of development and the management practices developers are encouraged to use," Clean Water spokeswoman Kelley O'Brien said. "We want them to understand what's going on if they see a stop-work order sign on a development and how to get involved if they see a control that has failed."

A workshop for residents in both Henry and Clayton counties is set for Tuesday, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Clayton County Water Authority, 1600 Battle Creek Road, Morrow.

Handouts will include information about where to report concerns and maps of the counties featuring regularly inspected erosion and trouble-spots. O'Brien said participants should pre-register by calling (770) 477-3681 so presenters can ensure there is enough material for everyone.

"That sounds perfect," Erhardt said. "I think everybody in my neighborhood is going to want to know about this."

The wide-ranging session will also cover rock programs to help residents control erosion and sedimentation on their property and regulations governing the removal of trees near water sources.

Tony Chumbley of the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission said his agency would present information about the state Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act and the "best management practices" that meet the requirements of the law.

"It's basically to inform the public of what should be happening on construction sites," Chumbley said, describing his talk as a scaled-down version of a seminar he presents to professionals.