Campus News

University will use EPA grant to clean several local streams

A team of UGA students, faculty and staff in collaboration with Athens-Clarke County Storm Water and the Upper Oconee Watershed Network is working to make local streams cleaner.

The group, led by Laurie Fowler of the Odum School of Ecology; Mark Risse of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Jon Calabria of the College of Environment and Design; and project coordinator Tyra Byers of the Office of Sustainability, received a one-year, 319 nonpoint source implementation grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for a research and planning project that addresses pollution in three Athens streams: Tanyard Creek, Lily Branch and drainage beginning at the Physical Plant.

To involve the community in the cleanup effort, a public workshop will be held April 30 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Odum School of Ecology auditorium. The evening will include short presentations about the watersheds and the watershed planning effort, tables with information and input ­opportunities.

Tanyard Creek and Lily Brank begin in Athens and pass through campus before draining into the North Oconee River, a source of drinking water for area residents. Previous research conducted by UGA faculty and students has shown all three streams contain high levels of fecal coliform, with high levels of hydrocarbon pollution found in Lily Branch.

Although some sources of contamination have been identified, the project’s goal is to identify other potential sources and create a plan to address water quality improvements in the streams.

The project team includes faculty and staff members from the Office of Sustainability, the Physical Plant grounds department, the Odum School of Ecology, the College of Environment and Design, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Office of University Architects and, from the local community, Friends of Five Points and Emerging Green ­Professionals.

Graduate students completing UGA’s environmental practicum will conduct research along with representatives from Athens organizations including the River Basin Center, Athens-Clarke County Storm Water, the Upper Oconee Watershed Network and Friends of Five Points.

The goal of the project is to create an ongoing collaboration between UGA and Athens-Clarke County and to educate the campus and surrounding community on what they can do to prevent future stream contamination, according to Byers. The project will include outreach activities in schools, local businesses and organizations.

“It’s a good town-and-gown community partnership because the watersheds run through both of our backyards, so it’s a perfect way for UGA and the Athens community to work together,” Byers said. “It’s also a great way for students to engage in a project that’s hands-on and will actually impact their quality of life while they’re on campus.”