An Environmental Afternoon for GMC-Atlanta Students
(Union City, GA) January 27, 2004 – On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November, approximately fifty students from the Georgia Military College (GMC) Environmental Science Club and from two “Environmental Studies” classes traveled to Ronald Bridges Park in Union City, Georgia with one purpose in mind: Save a stream.
The tiny creek is located at the headwaters of Deep Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, and was adopted by the GMC-Atlanta Campus’ Environmental Science Club in 2002. This is the second year that members of the club and other environmentally concerned students have cleaned the stream. The stream was adopted, even though it is small, as it’s continued pollution could seriously impact the local environment. By blocking the flow of water in the stream with trash, the stream would become stagnant. Stagnant water is a notorious breeding ground for mosquitos, carriers of the West Nile Virus. Additionally, wildlife in the area that rely on the stream as a source of drinking water could be adversely effected by the pollutants and organisms found in the stagnant water. Of course, the water in the creek will eventually trickle into the Chattahoochee, affecting the drinking water of several downstream cities.
Students and club members arrived at the park armed with gloves, shovels, rakes and trash bags ready to remove whatever obstacles from the creek they encountered. On first observation, the situation did not appear that bad. On closer inspection, however, workers found that the creek had serious problems that were causing it to be completely stagnant in most areas. Large amounts of trash and several large discarded items were causing leaves and pine straw to become trapped, resulting in the complete blockage of water flow in the creek. The back up of water had resulted in algae and other organisms creating a “scum” like surface on the stagnated water. Students immediately noticed a foul odor coming from the water as they approached.
With their work cut out for them, students began removal of the large items such as lawn chairs, silt fences and boards from the creek. They also shoveled out the huge amounts of leaves and straw that had accumulated as a result of these items blocking the flow of the stream. As many areas of the creek were worked on and this material was removed, water began moving in the creek again. Willie Patterson, who had helped remove a 40 foot silt fence from the creek observed,” Look! It’s starting to clear!”. Indeed, as water flow was restored, the water did begin to clear as the “scum” layer was washed downstream.
In the stream’s watershed, students removed approximately twelve forty-gallon trash bags of debris such as beer bottles, discarded food wrappers, soda cans and other items left behind by visitors to the park. In addition, several boards with rusty nails protruding from them were found and removed. Since many local children play in the park, the removal of these boards was a particularly important safety concern.
After completion of the “Stream Clean”, several students were chatting at the park about their afternoon’s activities. One student compared the clogged up stream to a clogged up blood vessel. “When there is no blood flow in the body, there is death. I had the same feeling when I saw the stream and the shape it was in,” said Sabrina Sawyer. Other students commented on how amazing it was that people could be so careless and leave such trash in a community park. Tonya Respert-Ham remarked, “ As a parent, I feel it is my duty to educate, inform and make my children conscious of this type of selfish and destructive behavior to our planet.”
Everyone said they had a good time at the “ Stream Clean.” More importantly, many students commented that they “felt they had made a difference” with the time they spent that afternoon.
-Submitted by Diane Dorsett, Ph.D., Union City Faculty
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