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Garden club learns about water testing
From left to right is Jan Davis, garden club president; Terry Luth; Mary Sweeney-Reeves, coordinator of the Adopt-A-Wetlands Program; and Mariella Burchfield. - photo by Photo provided.

The February meeting of the Richmond Hill Garden Club featured Mary Sweeney-Reeves, faculty member at UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium and coordinator of the Adopt-A-Wetlands program for Coastal Georgia.
The program partners UGA’s Marine Extension Service with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and seeks to involve citizen scientists in monitoring water quality in coastal Georgia.
Sweeney-Reeves began her discussion by noting the difference between Adopt-A-Stream programs that focus on freshwater and Adopt-A-Wetlands efforts that focus on coastal estuaries. She explained that monitoring saltwater creeks and waterways to collect data allows for “tracking changes over time in one area” and, therefore, to understand what is happening to coastal waterways.
Chemical monitoring to evaluate the health of wetlands especially is important, as chemical pollution can stem from a specific source or from a “non-point source,” the normal runoff of fertilizer, fuel and animal waste, for example, from subdivisions and parking lots. Although pollution from single-point sources usually is evident, effects of non-point sources can increase gradually without anyone’s awareness. It often proves more difficult to track these sources.
Sweeney-Reeves also pointed out the necessity of consistency in testing. She advises volunteers to complete their collection of data under conditions that are as similar as possible each time, considering tide, for example. After volunteers complete their testing, they submit data online. The data then becomes available to a number of groups and individuals: water departments, city planners, colleges and technical schools, forestry services, environment groups, consulting agencies and state and local governments. Each of these has a stake in assuring that the quality of water on Georgia’s coast does not deteriorate.
Volunteers for the program must be certified and enroll in a course in which they learn how to operate equipment and assure that their testing is accurate. Certification also involves field tests, written tests, and an annual re-certification.
Longtime club member Mary Burn has been participating in water quality testing for more than a decade. She stressed that she enjoyed the work and believed it was important. She also echoed Sweeney-Reeves remark that submitting data was easy.
For information regarding becoming a volunteer, call 912-598-2350 or email

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