The Vernon River is part of the Ogeechee Estuary. It begins near Montgomery Crossroads and flows down to Green Island Sound where it converges with the Ogeechee River to meet the Atlantic Ocean.
In 2001 a group of citizens focused on protecting the Vernon River from urban pollution when it was listed as ‘impaired’ by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).
In 2012 the committee expanded to a group of stakeholders that work to reduce human and domestic pet sources of pollution and to create a Watershed Management Plan (WSMP). The plan was released in 2013 and a number of recommendations have been enacted.
Today, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, the City of Savannah, and other stakeholders are are partnering on a long-term project to restore the waterways in the Vernon River basin to the point that it can be delisted as an impaired waterbody by Georgia EPD, and to reduce litter and plastic pollution in the area.
The Vernon River drains approximately 40% of the City of Savannah, via urban and suburban runoff that flows through Wilshire Canal, Harmon Canal, Casey Canal, and Hayners Creek. All of these waterways are part of the Ogeechee River watershed.
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.
According to analysis conducted in preparation for the 2011 WMP, bacterial contributions were found to be coming from the following sources:
- 47% of the fecal coliform bacteria found in these canals are from human waste sources.
- 44% is from a wildlife source.
- The reminder is from pet waste.
Pollution enters the Vernon River via:
- Stormwater run-off
- Chronically failing septic systems
- Sanitary sewer system leaks and spills
The Vernon River Project will include input from multiple stakeholders, including:
- 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 Vernon River basin
The ultimate goal is to reduce pollution to the point that it will be delisted by the Georgia EPD as ‘impaired.’
Using advanced scientific testing and mapping, ORK and stakeholders will pinpoint the sources of the pollution and work to remediate them.
The committee will promote the project through multiple education efforts in order to engage citizens and help them understand their impacts on water quality.
The committee will also provide resources with concrete steps citizens can take to contribute to the project, including:
- Adopt-A-Stream locations
- Litter reduction and collection
- Educational resources
- Volunteer opportunities
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