Q&A on the News

Q: What is the source of the fecal and other pollution in the South River, and what is being done to clean it up? A clean South River could be a major recreational asset to the south metro area as the Chattahoochee is to the north.

-- Nancy Brown, Decatur

A: The South River originates in Fulton County and merges with the Alcovy River to form the Ocmulgee River. Like most urban streams, the South River does not meet recreational use standards due to frequent heightened levels of fecal coliform bacteria, Burke Brennan, interim chief communications officer for DeKalb County, told Q&A on the News in an e-mail. He said most of it is caused by storm water runoff, since end-of-pipe discharges from the wastewater plants along the river all discharge effluent that is of better quality than the standards. "When it rains, storm water washes pollutants from the streets, parking lots and lawns into tributaries that make their way to the river," he said. After a rainfall, pollutant levels tend to rise, and during dry spells, pollutant levels tend to fall, he said. Brennan said DeKalb County and other jurisdictions continue water testing to monitor the river. All metro jurisdictions along the South River are implementing their Total Maximum Daily Load plans with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and they are making improvements to the storm water systems to reduce pollutant impacts, he said.

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).