Scotts Creek still has its pollution problems

To the Editor:

The article titled “Creeks now flow clean through Waynesville and Sylva” (Sept. 8 Smoky Mountain News) described the decline in fecal coliform pollution in Scotts Creek. While this is unequivocally good news, it does not mean that Scotts Creek is all cleaned up and that now we can all turn our attention to other environmental problems.

Water monitoring and cleanup is team effort and a community challenge. The Jackson County Health Department has brought in the state’s Waste Discharge Elimination Program (known as WaDE) to help homeowners finance repairs to septic systems. TWSA continues to assess and fix up broken sewers in the Sylva system. This fall students in the Environmental Health Department at WCU will be monitoring for fecal sources in nearby Savannah Creek.  

Other types of pollution continue. Scotts Creek has very high levels of sediment during storms, and the resulting mud settles in the stream suffocating the invertebrate life and upsetting the stream ecology. Data from the Sylva Mud Meter will help us document those levels. WATR’s Watch our Water team will be looking for mud sources in Scotts Creek and elsewhere in the Tuckasegee River watershed in effort to reduce erosion. More volunteer help is always appreciated

The community response is essential too. When the community and individual landowners become accountable for our septic systems and our stream bank buffer areas, then we can take the positive steps needed to improve water quality. Litter problems persist, and litter cleanup is also an indicator of involvement and concern. WATR volunteers assist the Town of Dillsboro by regularly removing litter in Scotts Creek at the Monteith Farmstead Park, and Sylva’s mayor just announced that LifeWay Church will be cleaning litter from Scotts Creek in the Bridge Park area.  

So the good news of lower bacteria levels in Scotts Creek provides us with cautious optimism. People with open sores or weakened immune systems probably should not wade in Scotts Creek because bacteria are still present and actual amounts are still uncertain. But conditions have significantly improved and will improve more as we stay vigilant and active in protecting our creeks and rivers.

Special thanks go to the Division of Water Quality’s Ed Williams, who supplied information for this letter.

Roger Clapp

Executive Director,

Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River

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