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Pollution of the Chattahoochee River
About North Georgia


Randy's Corner


About North Georgia's publisher Randy Golden contributes a look into life in north Georgia, the Web, or anything that's on his mind.

Well, we have had a rough go of it here in north Georgia this hurricane season, twice raked by tropical storms. We lost 3 pine trees, and luckily none hit the house. Straight-line winds lifted a few shingles off the house, and there was other damage, but all in all we survived remarkably well.

Shortly after my June column the folks at Menasha Ridge contacted Pam and I to see if we would be interested in writing our first book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta, thanks in part to another site that I write, GeorgiaTrails.com. We actually began the site as part of About North Georgia (it was Welcome to North Georgia at the time.) It was our first spin-off way back in 1998.

We were very lucky that August was a spectacular month for hiking. Cool nights and warm days are great hiking weather, and the nights were so cool that I was expecting to see a piece on The Weather Channel about "global cooling." Tropical storms take the fun out of hiking - for weeks after the trails are wet and sloppy.

One of the places we visited for our book was the Johnson Ferry Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. It was an introduction to the appalling pollution of the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. We long knew that as the 'Hooch passed Peachtree Creek it got a serious dose of sewage, but we knew nothing of the problem this far north.

When we first came to Atlanta, Johnson Ferry was the epicenter of outdoor activity. Two or three times a year we would journey to Cobb County, rent a raft at the Chattahoochee Outdoor Center and travel south on the Chattahoochee River to one of two take out points further south.

Today the parking area is overgrown, the outdoor center is in shambles and visitation at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has dropped 20 per cent. Why? Because of unacceptable levels of e coli, a standard measure of fecal coliform. Recent tests at Medlock Bridge and Paces Ferry have shown a dramatic increase not only in the level of pollution of the Chattahoochee, but also in the number of days pollution levels reach the unacceptable mark. On the Sunday we visited the park in August, the river was an unusual green, foul-smelling and both my wife and I did not feel good for days after the visit.

From the USGS site regarding fecal coliform:
Consumption of or contact with water contaminated with feces of warm-blooded animals can cause a variety of illnesses. Minor gastrointestinal discomfort is probably the most common symptom; however, pathogens that may cause only minor sickness in some people may cause serious conditions or death in others, especially in the very young, old, or those with weakened immunological systems.

Source:
Recent counts of e coli show the levels are more than 200 times normal counts and 35 times the "acceptable" level. Simply coming in contact with water from the Chattahoochee at this level can cause ear and eye infections, stomach problems and a whole host of other issues.

What is the source of the pollution? Five waste treatment plants that overflow during heavy rain, or if they are over capacity. The city of Atlanta, which has made a few unsuccessful attempts to remedy the problem, simply doesn't have the money to spend on waste treatment. Our loss. What's worse, the federal monitoring program comes to an end October 1, 2004, so we will no longer know the extent of the problem.

In the meantime, if you visit the 'Hooch south of Medlock Bridge, don't touch the water.

Randy Golden, Publisher


Randy's Corner
Notes from our publisher, Randy Golden

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