RELEASE: Ogeechee Riverkeeper, City of Savannah Vernon River Restoration Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
05/03/21
Contact: Meaghan Walsh Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER, CITY OF SAVANNAH LEAD VERNON RIVER RESTORATION PROJECT

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) and the City of Savannah are partnering to lead a long term project to protect the water quality and ecology of the Vernon River. The Vernon River receives a significant amount of the stormwater leaving the City of Savannah, via Wilshire Canal, Harmon Canal, Casey Canal, and Hayners Creek, all part of the Ogeechee River watershed. The goal is to improve water quality, restore ecological habitat, and “Protect The Vernon River” from current and future threats.

The canals and tributaries that feed the Vernon River are highly impacted by urban development. When stormwater runs across parking lots, through streets, and off of other impervious surfaces it doesn’t have a chance to be filtered through soils before reaching the marsh. This, along with aging sewage infrastructure, failing septic systems, and disconnected riparian habitats, has negatively impacted the canals and creeks of the Vernon watershed.

In 2001 a group of citizens came together to focus on protecting the Vernon River from urban pollution when it was listed as ‘impaired’ by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD). This allowed ORK and the City of Savannah to apply for grant funding and conduct further testing to trace causes and share the results. In 2012 the committee expanded to a group of stakeholders to create a Watershed Management Plan (WSMP). The plan was released in 2013 and a number of recommendations have been enacted. 

This year, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, the City of Savannah, and other stakeholders are updating the WSMP with new data and recommendations with the goals to: restore the waterways in the Vernon River basin to the point that it can be delisted as an impaired waterbody by GA EPD; and to reduce the amount of litter and plastic pollution entering the waterways.

“All of Savannah’s stormwater infrastructure flows into a public waterway,” says Laura Walker, Water Resources Environmental Manager for the City of Savannah. “These waterways are lifelines to Savannah’s environmental and economic health. We work hard every day to try and keep them fishable and swimmable. But we need everyone to treat the storm system with care. We need everyone to protect the storm drains, ditches, and creeks and keep them clean.” 

The steering committee includes representatives from:

  • The City of Savannah
  • Cuddybum Hydrology
  • Ogeechee Riverkeeper
  • Savannah State University
  • Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (UGA)
  • Town of Vernonburg
  • Concerned residents from neighborhoods throughout the watershed

“With its gorgeous views and vibrant wildlife, the Vernon River exemplifies why our coastal rivers are such jewels and worthy of our protection,” says Damon Mullis, Ogeechee Riverkeeper and Executive Director. “We are so grateful for the broad group of stakeholders working with us to minimize the threats that urban runoff, and litter and plastic pollution pose to this special waterbody. Local residents are encouraged to volunteer for litter cleanups, citizen science programs, educational events, and more in the coming months.”

Sign up to volunteer, view data, and read the 2013 WSMP at: https://www.ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/vernon

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 402 miles long, the Ogeechee-Canoochee River system drains more than 5,500 square miles of land across 22 Georgia counties. ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

RELEASE: Ogeechee Riverkeeper partners with Green Truck Pub for Earth Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
03/15/21

Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

Green Truck Pub
Contact: Whitney Shephard Yates, Co-owner
912-234-5885
greentruckevents@gmail.com

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER PARTNERS WITH GREEN TRUCK PUB FOR EARTH DAY
Event will showcase a new interactive map and burger special

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) is partnering with Green Truck Pub (GTP) on Thursday, April 22, 2021, in the parking lot of GTP, 2430 Habersham St. The event will be held from 5-9 p.m. and feature a live outdoor projection of a new interactive map of the Ogeechee River basin. GTP will offer a new burger special highlighting the celebration. 

Members of ORK staff will be on-hand to answer questions, assist with memberships, and demonstrate the new StoryMap. Using ArcGIS technology, the web-based platform integrates data, narrative, maps, and graphics to tell the story of the Ogeechee River basin and the Riverkeeper organization. The result is an interactive experience for the user. 

“We are in awe of the commitment of Ogeechee Riverkeeper to protect our shared river basin. Most of Chatham County thinks of the Savannah River, but in reality 76% of the county is in the Ogeechee watershed. Whether you’re paddling, drinking clean water, or appreciating the deep heritage, the river is a tremendous resource to our community and upstream communities alike. Green Truck has enjoyed a long partnership with ORK, and the StoryMap viewing is a fun way to showcase all of the good that ORK is doing.” 

ORK and GTP are committed to maintaining the highest COVID-19 safety protocols. This is an outdoor, ‘drop by’ event only. Guests are encouraged to visit the ORK tent while picking up a to-go order from GTP.  

The event is part of Earth Day Savannah Month (earthdaysavannah.org) and guests are encouraged to view their master calendar for other virtual or small outdoor events during the month of April. 

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land across 22 Georgia counties. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

About Green Truck Pub: Locally-owned, Green Truck Pub features coastal Georgia farmers and American craft brewers. We do simple food the hard way, from scratch, with love, every day. We are proud to be Savannah’s grass-fed burger joint, ten years and counting. www.greentruckpub.com.

PRESS RELEASE: ORK announces inaugural photography contest

Winners have been announced for the 2020 contest.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12/2/20
Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL PHOTO CONTEST
Multiple categories will put on a spotlight the beauty of the area

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) is soliciting the best photographs from across the watershed. Judges will be looking for images that highlight what makes the Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers, and the surrounding areas, remarkable.

“From the Ogeechee Shoals to the wide estuaries, pine forests to coastal marshes, our watershed is home to an incredible variety of ecological features,” said Meaghan Walsh Gerard, communications director for ORK. “We are also a habitat for more than 160 rare species of plants and animals. By displaying the amazing ecological wealth we have, we hope to inspire more people to protect it.” 

Photographers can enter in multiple categories: Landscape, portrait, wildlife, plant life, underwater, aerial, black and white, and funny wildlife. Since this will be an annual event each December, ORK requests that any images submitted be taken within the same calendar year. ORK hopes to see entries from across the 5,500 square miles of the watershed. 

Complete rules and submission guidelines are available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/annual-photography-contest. Submissions are due by December 20, 2020. 

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

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PRESS RELEASE: ORK finds dangerous PFAs chemicals in fish

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER FINDS DANGEROUS PFAS CHEMICALS IN FISH
PFAs are carcinogenic ‘forever’ chemicals that bioaccumulate in fish and other organisms consumed by humans

After Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) discovered that Milliken’s Longleaf facility was discharging polyfluoroalkyls and perfluoroalkyls (PFAS) chemicals, ORK initiated a pilot study to determine if these chemicals were bioaccumulating in fish regularly consumed by people from the river. Initial results show that all fish sampled had detectable limits of PFAS chemicals in their tissue fillets. These results are publicly available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/milliken. ORK will continue to make results publicly accessible as available. 

These fish were collected between the HWY 80 and I-16 bridges and included representatives from three species (largemouth bass, redbreast sunfish, and bluegill). ORK is continuing the pilot study and will be sampling throughout the watershed. The study will include other species of fish. 

PFAs are a category of manmade carcinogenic chemicals and are considered ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down in the environment and they accumulate in wildlife, plants and humans. “The chemicals build up in the fish, and then people eat the fish,” Riverkeeper Damon Mullis explains. “These chemicals have been shown to have many negative health effects, and eating contaminated fish is a pathway for them to enter our bodies.” 

ORK discovered Milliken was discharging these chemicals during an investigation leading up to the facilities’ permit renewal. In 2014, the facility was required to conduct a study to determine if the facility was discharging PFAS chemicals, and if found discharging these chemicals, it was required to perform a fish tissue study to determine the extent of contamination. ORK reviewed the test that was submitted, and accepted by GA EPD, as evidence that the facility was not discharging these chemicals, and determined it was insufficient. ORK now believes the facility has been discharging these chemicals since 2006.  

“These first results came from a relatively small sample,” Mullis said. “But it included three species and it’s enough to show that the chemicals are present and at levels that warrant much more investigation. We need GA EPD to require Milliken to conduct the robust study from a third party that should have been completed in 2014. And they need to do it before they issue a new permit to Milliken. The results of that study should be used to inform the new permit and how PFAS should be regulated in it. The health of the estuary, and the people that consume its fish and shellfish are at stake.”

The public can attend a virtual hearing on Tuesday, November 17, 7 p.m. and is encouraged to submit comments by Friday, November 20, 5 p.m. Links to register for the virtual public hearing and comment submission form are available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/milliken.

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

PRESS RELEASE: ORK to hold virtual annual meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11/9/20
Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER TO HOLD VIRTUAL ANNUAL MEETING
Program will feature updates, raffle, and nature photography

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) will hold its annual meeting virtually on Friday, November 13, 2020. The live stream will begin at 6:45 p.m., with speakers starting at 7 p.m.

The free program will include gorgeous footage from the most beautiful spots in our watershed, a special message from Georgia Writers Hall of Fame member Janisse Ray, updates on the basin from the ORK board chair and the Riverkeeper, and a raffle full of amazing donated prizes.

Raffle items include an original artwork by Betsy Cain, a private tour of Bootleg Farms, a prize package from the Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern, a handmade wooden cricket box, an adventure from Wilderness Southeast, a custom pet portrait, a two-night stay in downtown Savannah,  a handcrafted wooden paddle, a guided paddle trip, and more. 

Sponsors of the event include Queensborough National Bank and Trust, Advanced Metal Components, Chatham Steel, and Green Truck Pub. Riverrat Productions and Ogeechee River Boat Company are in-kind sponsors.  

Additional information, a link to purchase raffle tickets, and free event registration is available ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/annual-meeting.

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

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