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Newton County water quality good
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Last year the county received a $158,000 Georgia Adopt-a-Stream reimbursement grant to create and maintain volunteer water quality monitoring sites.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides states with grant money, which then distributes it among various communities.

Robert Phillips, volunteer coordinator with the Alcovy Conservation Center of the Georgia Wildlife Federation, said GWF employees test water from tributaries of the Yellow and Alcovy rivers at 10 sites around the county for pollutants and oxygen levels.

 "That's the good thing about Adopt-a-Stream because if we find a problem, then we can address it on a county level before it gets to be a state problem," Phillips said.

Air and water temperatures are measured along with the amount of soluble solids.

"That's the parts in the water that settle out of the stream within a certain period of time," Phillips said.

Ph levels and levels of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates are also measured.

"It's common to find them," Phillips said, "but you don't want an excess of them."

Any nutrient level more than one part per million could mean a septic tank is leaking nearby, farm animals are defecating too close to the river or a farm or subdivision is using excessive amounts of fertilizer.

"The state doesn't worry about it until it's at 11 parts per million because that's when a health alert comes in to play," Phillips said.

He said high levels of nitrates or phosphates in water can be especially dangerous for pregnant women.

Information from the tests is sent on a bi-yearly basis to the county who must report the data to the state EPA yearly. The county must also match 40 percent of the grant funds, $63,200, with in-kind services.

This is why Phillips conducts workshops twice a year to teach residents to test the water around their property and report the data back to the Alcovy Conservation Center.

So far, data from the 10 testing sites has revealed very low levels of pollution as well as appropriate nutrient amounts. However, one site on the western end of the county showed a low dissolved oxygen level.

"Aquatic animals can become distressed if it drops below 4 or 5 parts per million," Phillips said.

The tributary displayed a reading of 2.5 parts per million of dissolved oxygen.

Phillips explained high temperatures and low velocity - a very hot summer and extreme drought conditions - may have caused the depleted dissolved oxygen levels.

For more information about the grant, water quality testing workshops or how to volunteer, call the Alcovy Conservation Center at (770) 787-7887.