It's surprising, but true: the number one polluter of streams in our state is DIRT. But it's not entirely the dirt's fault. It needs the help of a good rainstorm to really pollute a nice river.
"Dirt?! Rain?" you may ask. "Aren't the riverbanks made out of dirt? Isn't rain just water -- which is what a river essentially is?"
Well, yes -- technically. But there's one more element that turns dirt and rain into pollution: Disturbance.
Surely you've driven by a new housing development before and seen piles of red Georgia clay just sitting there around yellow earth-moving machinery and the brand new foundation of a house. This kind of land disturbance is necessary if you want to build a house or a shopping mall, but if the right steps aren't taken to keep all that dirt in one place, a good rainstorm could wash all the dirt right off the site and into the nearest river or stream. And all that dirt, though "natural," can pick up and bring with it all kinds of toxic junk from roads, roofs, lawns and parking lots.
In addition, rainwater, without encountering anything to slow it down (like leaf litter in a forest, or the root structure of trees and other plants) will get going so fast it can eat away dozens of square feet of creek and river banks in a single rain event. This just adds more dirt of the river, and it actually removes valuable acreage from your property.
Of course, there are laws in Georgia that ensure the developers who are disturbing land in our communities are putting the right kinds of protections in place so that our streams and rivers don't become polluted and that our private property isn't damaged by high velocity runoff. But we need more people watching out for their local waterways. If you're interested in finding out how you can monitor a local development to make sure it's following all the rules to ensure that your local waterways stay clean, consider being trained in the Get The Dirt Out program: www.getthedirtout.org
Also, if you ever see a river looking like the one pictured above, let your local Riverkeeper or watershed group know immediately. If you don't already who how to find that, look it up in our Watershed Group Directory.
Erosion and Sedimentation / Get the Dirt Out
Get the Dirt Out Program
Erosion and Sedimentation Act
Click here to view the Act. Once you click the link, you will have to search Lexis Nexis for "erosion".
Click here to view the regulations.
Erosion and Sedimentation Control Procedures Manual - 2006