The month of March has been busy one for our volunteers. Our efforts have been concentrated on cleaning up several of the creeks in the area. One stream in particular the Smith Mill Creek had us working on four different sections with the goal to improve water quality. (Patton, Emma, French Broad and Westgate)
One of the areas of focus is just 200 yards from the mouth of the of the French Broad River (behind Westgate). 40+ years ago this location know locally as the slaughterhouse, utilized a dammed up portion of Smith Mill Creek to reroute and flush butchered animal remains into the French Broad River. Standard practice of the day, but highly frowned upon post Clean Water Act. Today the old building is used for equipment storage, the dam has long since disappeared but the name persists.
Where are the bugs?
These days the Smith Mill is heavily urbanized, piped and abused by garbage runoff. In the lower sections of the creek even our ambitious volunteers have a difficult time locating the most basic members of a stream's food chain the macroinvertebrates. These fresh water creatures are the canary in the coal mine of water quality. With varying pollution tolerance levels, we can rate a stream by the types of bugs that are able to eek out an existence. When we find a stream with little to no water bugs, or only a few of the toughest, we start the search for the cause of their demise. Sewage, silt, agricultural run off and/or trash are all factors. We can also test the waters for nutrients with the help of local laboratory and partner Environmental Quality Institute. In the case of the Smith Mill Creek, the problem was easily identified. A 30 year old trash dump along the stream, 200 yards from the Norfolk-Southern Railroad trestle at the French Broad River.
Bring in the Volunteers
So began the task of cleaning up trash in and along the creek banks. The most polluted section we carefully pulled back the bank with a piece of equipment, cleaned out the trash and replaced the soil. We then planted 110 trees to further stabilize the bank, seeded the area and added a temporary silt fence.
In two days, the volunteers filled two 40 cubic yard dumpsters with garbage. They uncovered 72 tires and hauled out 154 wooden pallets. While there they sorted out the scrap metal from the trash for recycling. We ended up with a two dump truck loads of metals and enough urbanite to repair a couple sections of the creek. All of this from a portion of the creek less than 200 feet by 80 feet.
This section may be under control but challenges still remain throughout this creek. If you're interested there are a couple ways that you can help out.
If you would like to help out at stream or river cleanup let us know. We have the gear if you have the time. [email protected] / ph 828-254-1776