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Water authorities campaign for clean waterways

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Water authorities in the Southern Crescent are preparing for events this fall aimed at promoting the preservation and health of the region's wetlands and river systems.

Authorities in Henry and Clayton counties will host river cleanups in October as a part of Georiga's Rivers Alive campaign, a statewide, volunteer river-cleanup event that targets waterways throughout the state, including streams, rivers, lakes, beaches, and wetlands.

The objective of the annual effort is to create awareness of, and involvement in, the preservation and protection of water resources. In 2007, some 25,000 volunteers cleaned up more than 2,300 miles of waterways and removed more than 374 tons of waste from the Georgia's waterways.

Everyone contributes to some degree to polluting waterways, though they may not be aware of it, said Henry County Stormwater Management Director Erik Lombard. "From fertilizers and other chemicals we spray on our lawns, to oil from parking lots, it all eventually ends up in our waterways," Lombard said. "The annual Rivers Alive cleanup event is [a way for residents] to give back to the environment and protect our waterways from stormwater pollution."

While the state's waterways are used for outdoor recreational activities, such as fishing and canoeing, they also provide communities with drinking water.

On Oct. 4, the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority and Henry County Stormwater Management will host its Fourth Annual River's Alive cleanup. The event will be held from 8 a.m., to 1 p.m., on a portion of the South River, which is adjacent to the Old Snapping Shoals neighborhood at the intersection of River Road and Old Snapping Shoals Road in McDonough.

Volunteers are needed to make this year's effort a success, said Tonja Mincey of the Henry water authority. "We spent months scouting sites to host the annual Rivers Alive cleanup on the South River, which is one of our primary water bodies in the county," Mincey said. "This location is easily accessible and has lots of trash and debris that need our attention. Those who come out to help with our cleanup will go home knowing they made a real difference in the efforts to protect these natural resources, which provide clean, safe, drinking water for all of us."

The Clayton County Water Authority will host its cleanup on Oct. 18 near Rex Mill Middle School in Rex. The school recently adopted the nearby Tar Creek as a part of the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Program, and has pledged to begin monitoring the creek and keeping it clean.

The water authority will also host its Ninth Annual CCWA Wetlands and Watershed Festival on Oct. 4, an event for residents throughout the region to learn about nature. "It's a great event, not only for Clayton County residents but for anyone in the Southern Crescent," said Clayton water authority spokeswoman Suzanne Brown. "It's a great way to learn about our environment and the important roll we play in it."

The free festival will be held from 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., rain or shine, at the Newman Wetlands Center, located at 2755 Freeman Road in Hampton. Last year, about 600 visitors turned out for the festival. The 32-acre center includes a learning/exhibit center and a half-mile wetlands trail.

"This festival is one of the many ways we reach out to educate people of all ages about wetlands, our watershed and the role of people within the watershed," said Pete McQueen, Chairman of the authority's board of directors. "It is a great way for families to come out and experience the beauty of the facility while learning about our environment - and they don't even have to drive very far."

Visitors may participate in wetlands and watershed activities, guided wetland walks, a scavenger hunt, face painting, and view live animal exhibits provided by "Bubba and Friends" of Zebulon, Ga., and others.

Several other environmental agencies will be on hand with exhibits and materials as well, including the Atlanta Audubon Society, Clayton County Master Gardeners 4H and Extension Service, Reynolds Nature Preserve, Georgia Adopt-A-Stream, Dauset Trails Nature Center, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

Festival visitors will be directed to park at nearby Blalock Reservoir and take the shuttle to the festival throughout the day.

For more about the festival, call the CCWA at (770) 603-5606, and for more about Henry County's River's Alive event, call (770) 288-RAIN.