Nothing is better than a quick plunge into cool waters during the unbearably hot dog days of summer. For years Rockdale County residents have cooled off in the South River, which flows into the county from DeKalb County in metro Atlanta. But many may not realize they're swimming in waters released from sewer plants.
There are several popular swimming spots such as Oglesby Bridge, that are located not too far downstream from two sewer plants in DeKalb County, and those spots have come under fire when it was recently asked if it was safe to swim in.
There are no restrictions forbidding the use of the South River for recreation in Rockdale County, but DeKalb County recently began posting restrictions.
On July 26 DeKalb planted No Swimming signs along the South River citing health reasons.
Rockdale’s portion of the river comes downstream of the No Swimming sign and also downstream of DeKalb’s watershed’s plants.
According to the watershed, however, the effluent coming out of the plant should not be a swimmer’s biggest concern.
"There are certain levels of pollution in any urban stream, and the South River just as an urban stream ahas a certain level of pollution in it," said Jo Ann Macrina, Deputy Director of Watershed Protection and Storm Water for Dekalb County. "Typically our affluent water quality is often better than the water quality of the South River."
According to numbers provided by Dekalb County’s watershed, a station on the South River upstream from the plant had at least three more milligrams per liter of suspended solids than that coming out of the plant in July.
On the week of July 4 there was 2 milligrams per liter of suspended solids coming out of the Pole Bridge plant and just one milligram on the week of July 11. The numbers were well below the permitted limit of 30 milligrams per liter.
"What we do is test what is coming out of our advance wastewater treatment plants and make sure we’re in those regulatory standards and we also have to test down stream of our plants to make sure we’re not adversely impacting the water quality of the stream, Macrina"
Although the numbers show that the river downstream of the watershed is cleaner, it is still advised throughout the waterway to take health precautions.
"Just as a precautionary measure, the watershed management would suggest and advise people not to swim," Macrina said.