The lake inside the Woodbridge neighborhood in Evans became the focus of an Augusta State University biological study last week because of high levels of waste indicators recently recorded there.
A study conducted a month ago by The Augusta Chronicle showed the 33-acre lake had potentially dangerous levels of fecal coliform, a typically harmless bacteria found in animal and human waste used as indicators for other possibly harmful bacteria.
The state standard for fecal coliform levels during summer months is 200 colony forming units fecal coliform per 100 milliliters of water. The Chronicle's sample showed about 2,500 units.
The report drew the concern of some Woodbridge residents, who enlisted the help of Augusta State.
Dr. Donna Wear, a biology professor at ASU, said the study conducted by her and her undergraduate students will include multiple samples taken from various locations of the lake during several weeks.
"This is a great project for them to carry out the scientific method from start to finish," Wear said.
Though several factors likely have contributed to waste indicators in the lake, Wear said, the students' study will look specifically for correlations between temperature and fecal coliform levels.
"We're going to take samples and check the water temperature when we do," she said. "Afterwards, in the laboratory, we'll do our count and see if there is a correlation."
Joe Wheeler, the Woodbridge homeowners association vice president of the dam and lake, said he believes a large population of geese and new development in the area are responsible for the high fecal coliform levels.
A sewer pipe running beneath the lake might also be a factor, Wheeler said -- an assertion county officials dispute.
"That's not the issue because it's a gravity pipe," Columbia County Water Utilities Director Billy Clayton said. "If the pipe had any problems with it, the water from the lake would be flowing into it, not vice-versa."
Still, Wear said she and her students will test the water in the area around the pipe to see if fecal coliform levels are higher there.
Another factor that might be contributing to the levels in the lake is the waste carried into it from its feeder creek -- Mount Enna Branch, Clayton said.
The creek backs up to several neighborhoods as it snakes south, upstream of the lake, nearly to Hereford Farm Road.
Recently, a water customer was reprimanded for a sewage leak that was emptying human waste into Mount Enna Branch upstream of the lake, Clayton said.
Though the leak has since been fixed, Clayton said, he didn't know how long sewage had been flowing into the creek.
"What we worry about the most is human sewage because there is so much you can pass along in human waste," Clayton said. "We're definitely always on the lookout for those kinds of scenarios."
Human waste can carry such waterborne diseases as diphtheria, typhoid and cholera.
"You don't really see a lot of that around much anymore, but the scenario exists and the waterways are not the place for sanitary sewer," Clayton said.
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