An old problem in Weracoba Creek has resurfaced in the 3400 block of Cherokee Avenue with clouded water and some dead fish.
The most recent change in the creek comes almost seven months after a similar concern was noticed in December. A reader who spends time feeding the fish in front of his house knew something was amiss July 16 when about five dead fish floated down the stream.
A look at the stream last week revealed the water is cloudy or turbid from the clear stream one might see in the waterway. Another sign of trouble was the missing fish.
House paint may be a common culprit entering the creek through storm drains but Michael Burgess, the stormwater manager for the city’s Engineering Department, said creeks gets that smoky look during the summer. “Weracoba looks that way sometimes,” he said. “It has that turbidity shining and it has that smoky look to it. The creeks do that. It just happens.”
He pointed to Cooper Creek, Flat Rock, and others with the same look at times during the summer. When asked what might have killed fish floating in the creek, Burgess said it might be related to the weather. The hotter the water temperature gets, the lower level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Fish don’t like warmer water so they head for deeper pools versus the shallow areas that are hot.
If the fish can’t find deeper, cooler water with oxygen, they move to deeper cooler water or die. After walking the creek during the fall last year, Burgess said he actually has seen more fish over the last 17 years.
“I would have to say countywide I saw more fish than I ever have,” he said of the creek condition. “ I think it’s getting better.”
Whenever there is something in the stormwater sewers, Burgess said a crew has to check the entire basin that starts on Armour Road. They lift the manhole covers and visually look for a substance in the sewers.
“It is just really tough, unless you got some kind of smoking gun,” he said. “It is a tough proposition to try and track this stuff down.”
Many times, the substance that entered the sewers is already gone by the time a crew arrives. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, the material has moved thousands of feet in the sewer system which flows into other streams, lakes and the Chattahoochee River.
“By the time the material comes out, by time we get there, the source of it is long gone,” Burgess said. “The water will move in those pipes somewhere a foot to two foot per second.”
Burgess said he will keep an eye on the waterway to check for any materials in the stormwater sewers.
Vic Burchfield, vice president of Information, Security and Environmental Services at the Columbus Water Works, said a crew checked the sanitary sewers in the area for possible overflows but found none.
“Color of the water is an indicator of the quality of water,” Burchfield said. “Typically, cloudiness or turbidity of water indicate any issues. That’s one of the first signs you can look at whether you might have a problem. Only chemical analysis or bacterial analysis can tell if the stream is impacted or not.”
Burgess and Burchfield agree that you should never put paint in the stormwater drains. “Only thing that goes down the storm sewer is rain, no paint,” Burgess said.
Burchfield said the safest way to clean paint brushes is in a contained bucket of water so you don’t release water into the environment. “Make sure you aren’t pouring it in the stream or you aren’t using a water hose outside on the ground. It’s best to wash those in a sink so you make sure it’s not going to get in the stormwater drain.”
Car washing is allowed even if your soap is foamy near the storm drain. Anyone caught dumping paint, grease or other items down the storm drain may face a fine up to a $1,000. “If they see paint or grease, call 311 Citizen Service Center and they will let us know,” he said.
If you see something that needs attention, give me a call.