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Safe waters?

Summertime means lazy days on the lake, afternoons splashing around on creek rocks, and fishing from riverbanks. But many waters, even though they might look clear to the human eye, can still be contaminated with sewage and runoff, particularly after heavy rains. Some stretches of river might look easy to navigate for kayakers and tubers, but after a heavy rain, can become treacherous. Do you know how safe are the waters where you play?


Randy Poynter Reservoir (Black Shoals Lake)

Randy Poynter Reservoir, located at Black Shoals Park, is fed by the Big Haynes Creek watershed in north Rockdale/South Gwinnett and provides the drinking water for Rockdale County. Fishing and non-gasoline powered boating (electric, sail, paddle) is allowed in the 560 acre lake, but not swimming. The park is open 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. April - November. The types of fishing available are: Largemouth Bass (12-16") restriction 1 meal/week, Channel Catfish >12" restriction 1 meal/week, Black Crappie < 12" - restriction 1 meal/week, Redear Sunfish - no restrictions. 770-278-7529


Lake Varner

The Cornish Creek Reservoir provides drinking water for Newton County residents, but also provides a place to fish, boat, or have a picnic. Fishing available includes: Largemouth Bass > 12" - restriction 1 meal/week, Channel Catfish - no restrictions, Redear Sunfish - no restrictions. The hours are 7 a.m. - 9 p.m., April - October. 770-784-2049


Alcovy River, Factory Shoals

There have been at least six drownings at Factory Shoals Park since 2009.

The Alcovy River's current is always strong below the rock outcroppings at "the pool" where people generally swim at Factory Shoals Park. Higher water levels only compound the strength of the current and potential danger. With the water levels up from plentiful rain, turbulence at the pool increases and people can get caught in unexpected currents.

Jody Nolan, with Newton County's Emergency Management Agency, said in a previous interview, "If people weren't expecting to move into a current, there may be a panic at being pushed downstream. Often that sense of panic is what causes someone to drown."

Covington Fire Lt. James Cox said, in a previous interview, that underwater topography also causes people to underestimate the depth of the river. "There are a lot of big rocks there that are close to the surface. You may be walking on a rock and then there's a 20-foot hole... The depth varies ... it's not like a lake with a gradual decline."


South River

It has been one of the dirtiest rivers since the early 1990s, so much so that DeKalb County officials had to put up signs that prohibit the public from swimming in it in 2010. The South River has gone through a major facelift as of late with more concerned citizens and community members actively cleaning it up. It has been a hot topic as of late with the city of Atlanta trying to obtain permits from the EPD that will allow the city to dump more waste into the river. Fishing restrictions are limited to one meal per week. However, sewage overflows are more frequent with heavy rains, and residents near the river describe the fresh smell of sewage when the waters swell. The Ga. Department of Natural Resources advises, for any natural body of water near urban or suburban areas, to swim at your own risk and wear a personal flotation device. Avoid ingesting river and lake water and keep cuts and open sores away from the water.

The South River Watershed Alliance organizes cleanups, awareness events, and explorations of the river;


Yellow River

This 53-mile-long river starts in Gwinnett and stretches through four counties - Gwinnett, DeKalb, Rockdale, Newton - before ending at Lake Jackson. It has seen its share of pollution with Rockdale citizens organizing cleanups for the river about two years ago. There are no fishing restrictions. A group of local kayakers based in Porterdale, where the river flows over the shoals and provides an access point for kayakers, are organizing to make the Yellow River designated an official "water trail" by the Athens-based Georgia River Network.


Lake Jackson

Jackson Lake generates electricity for Georgia Power and borders Newton, Jasper and Butts counties. The 4,750 acre reservoir is fed by the South River, Yellow River and Alcovy River. It provides for boating, water sports and fishing opportunities. Fishing available includes Largemouth Bass >12" restriction 1 meal/week, Channel Catfish >16" restriction 1 meal/week - PCBs, No restrictions - black crappie, redear sunfish or white catfish.


Lake Lanier

A destination for tourist and Georgia residents, this lake holds about 637 billion gallons of water over its 39,000-acre reservoir area. This man-made lake was completed in 1956 and is a top pick for those who love to kayak or canoe. However, the beautiful waters are not without its dangers. In 2011, there were a record 17 deaths at the lake. In 2012, there were at least 10 people who drowned.