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Hampton resident continues his fight to preserve ponds from being polluted

By Michael Davis

More than a year after construction began, Hampton resident Jim Steele says the ground laid bare by coming development just won't stay put.

Overall-clad and perpetually baseball capped, Steele says that when the developers of a 348-home subdivision with a strip shopping center began construction, the more dirt they turned, the more ended up in nearby ponds.

Known widely for his preservationist drift, especially when it comes to nearby waters like Steele Pond and Nix Lake, Steele said he's tired of seeing the sediment fill in and discolor the ponds.

Steele fought against the development when it was up for rezoning, but now he's fighting to keep the runoff out of the waters.

But even the wildlife that once inhabited the pond, he said, have disappeared.

Part of the state's stormwater initiative is to educate developers and the public in what it sees as best management practices for emerging developments.

Requirements for silt fences to keep runoff contained within a small area so that it seeps into the ground and back into the water table are already in place as are recommendations on the phasing of development to keep from removing too much of the natural greenery that slows erosion.

But as the Clayton and Henry counties continue to grow, barren earth has become a familiar sight. Henry County is beginning to implement some of the EPD's recommended Best Management Practices for how to keep waterways clean of pollution, but the going is slow and costly.

Henry County's Stormwater Manager Jim Luebbering said part of the practice recommended by EPD and agreed to by Henry County is monitoring pollution levels in detention ponds and mapping all of the county's water-way infrastructure such as storm sewers.

New legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year will require thousands of builders, developers, municipal employees and others who disturb soil, to undergo training on how to reduce the effects of their activities.

"At least the people that disturb the ground won't be able to plead ignorance," said Bryan Wagoner, a spokesman for the Georgia Water & Pollution Control Association.

Land disturbance, he said, "is when most of the pollution problems in Georgia happen."

The GWPCA in conjunction with the Georgia State Soil & Water Commission, is now helping to develop the training curriculum for the course that will be required to get a state land disturbance permit by 2006.

The GWPCA estimates 100,000 to 180,000 acres a year are developed in Georgia.

"This is long overdo and hopefully it will remedy some of the situation," Wagoner said.