MOULTRIE —  Anyone who cares about the health of the Little Ochlockonee River is invited to three “listening sessions” this month regarding the health of three of the river’s tributaries.

The first session is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at Thomasville’s Bird Song Nature Center. Other sessions will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Old Stripling Irrigation Center in Camilla and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Moultrie-Colquitt County Public Library.

Golden Triangle, an organization based in Blakely, has received a grant from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to try to address impairments in three of the tributaries of the Little Ocholockonee, which is itself a tributary of the Ochlockonee River that runs from Colquitt County to the Gulf of Mexico.

Specifically, the group is going to work on the Slocumb Branch of the Little Ochlockonee, which is west of Hartsfield; Lost Creek, which runs through western Colquitt County and eastern Mitchell County; and Big Creek, which runs from Mitchell into Thomas County.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined the three streams are not performing their designated functions because of fecal coliform and low levels of dissolved oxygen, according to Golden Triangle spokeswoman Julie Shutters.

Fecal coiform is a common bacteria found in animals’ (including humans’) digestive tracts. It is excreted with feces and can find its way into water, where it’s the most common microbiological contaminant. There are many kinds, some of which are harmless to humans while others can make people very sick.

Low levels of dissolved oxygen makes it difficult for fish to breathe and eat.

The streams also have an issue with thermal stress and algal blooms, Shutters said, and while those conditions are not covered by the grants, Golden Triangle hopes to make them better as well.

“We work on getting the impairments and pollutants cleaned up so the streams can be restored,” she said.

The listening sessions are the first step in the process, she said, when Golden Triangle gets together with landowners, local governments, and state and federal environmental agencies. Afterwards, it will begin water quality monitoring on the streams as it moves forward with landowners to improve the water quality.

The program is entirely voluntary, Shutters said, but Golden Triangle can use the grant money to help landowners enact best management practices on their land to reduce pollution.

More details about what the group hopes to accomplish will be available at the listening sessions.

“The Ochlockonee is such a beautiful place and there are so many things to do,” Shutters said.

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