Athens Banner-Herald, April 9, 2016
Birders this week got an unusual treat at the University of Georgia’s Lake Herrick — a pair of black-bellied whistling ducks.
The red-beaked birds were never before recorded in Clarke County, said birder and UGA ecologist Richard Hall, a former president of the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society.
The body of water near UGA’s intramural fields has recorded some high pollution readings over the years, but for birds, Lake Herrick and the nearby UGA recreational sports fields seem to be an urban oasis.
Over the years, birders recorded 200 separate bird species there, Hall said — more than at any other place in Clarke County. In all of Clarke County, the species total is 258, according to records kept at Cornell University.
Athens Banner-Herald, April 1, 2016
One committee has been meeting to develop an action plan to improve water quality in Lake Herrick, beside the UGA intramural fields, and reopen it for recreation; they’ll be helped by about $215,000 in grants from the Southern Company and the Riverview Foundation.
The committee could have its plan finished in May, said ecology graduate student Lauren Mullenbach.
Lake Herrick receives pollution from parking lots and paved areas nearby, and perhaps from fertilizer runoff. The lake has registered high fecal coliform counts, possibly from dog waste or geese.
“I think if we can identify the sources, we have a pretty good shot at improving water quality,” Mullenbach said.
Red and Black, January 12, 2016
There is a monster terrorizing Lake Allyn M. Herrick — fecal coliform bacteria.
Lake Herrick, managed by the Warnell School of Forestry, is located in the Oconee Forest Park right behind the intramural fields of the University of Georgia and is part of the tributary pond known as the Oconee Forest Park Pond.
This lake used to be a major site for campus recreation until 2002 when the water quality became too dangerous for human use because of pathogens in the water.
“There are a number of potential pollution sources," said Todd Rasmussen, a professor involved in the Lake Herrick Watershed Study that is testing the lake's water quality.
These potential sources include leaking sewers, stormwater as well as pet waste that drains from two main tributaries, Birdsong Creek and an unnamed tributary called 'Dead Armadillo Creek' by the researchers, he said.
Birdsong Creek runs through Oconee Forest Park, and 'Dead Armadillo Creek' drains from a Five Points neighborhood.
Athens Banner-Herald, December 13, 2015
University of Georgia students plan to find out the sources of high pollution in a lake on the university’s Athens campus.
Student groups and classes have periodically measured high pollution levels of E. coli, a kind of bacteria found in feces, since the 1980s in the waters Lake Herrick.
The lake has been closed to swimmers for more than a decade because of the pollution.
Now Thalika Saintil, a student in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will use a grant from UGA’s Office of Sustainability to trace the path of pollution that enters the lake off College Station Road near the university’s Intramural Fields.
Saintil’s grant was one of 10 announced last week by the Office of Sustainability at a twice-yearly meeting the office stages to review the past semester’s sustainability progress.
Athens Banner-Herald, July 27, 2002
Toxic threat from algae, University posts alert for Herrick
By Lee Shearer
University of Georgia officials have put up signs around a campus lake warning against fishing, swimming or letting pets drink in the small body of water. The signs went up around Lake Herrick a little more than a week ago after scientists in UGA's botany department confirmed that the water's pea-green color was caused by a bloom of blue-green algae, said Matt Hackett, associate director of the university's recreational sports program.
Lake Herrick is just off College Station Road near the Athens Perimeter, between UGA's intramural fields complex and a small forest managed by the UGA School of Forest Resources.
Some kinds of algae, including blue-green algae, can produce harmful toxins, Hackett said.
The bloom should subside in a couple of months when cooler weather returns, he said.
''It's going to look like this until this fall,'' he said.
That doesn't mean swimming will be allowed again, though. The lake's swimming area has been closed all summer, not because of the algae but because the number of people who swim in the lake had dropped to almost none over the past few years, Hackett said.
Algae typically grows in ponds and streams in the Georgia Piedmont, but under the right circumstances, which include hot weather and a high nutrient load, algae levels can grow rapidly into an algal bloom, said Susan Noakes of the state Environmental Protection Division's Athens office.
A sign posted at the University of Georgia's Lake Herrick warns of the dangers of a blue-green algae bloom confirmed by UGA botanists some days ago. Such algal blooms can produce harmful toxins. The bloom should subside as cooler weather returns.
When it gets hot, a nutrient-rich lake can become sort of like a big cooking pot for the algae, she explained.
The ongoing drought, combined with recent rains, may also contribute to the algal bloom, said UGA hydrologist Todd Rasmussen.
Water from a large drainage area that includes much of Five Points drains into Lake Herrick, near the North Oconee River. That water brings with it the bad stuff typical of urban stormwater runoff anywhere, Rasmussen said -- fertilizers and chemicals from yards, oil residues left by motor vehicles on pavement, heavy metals and the like. In a recent research project, a UGA graduate student counted 117 commercial trash Dumpsters in the Lake Herrick watershed, Rasmussen said.
Fish from such urban lakes often have such high levels of heavy metals and other such urban toxins in their bodies that it is not advisable to eat a lot of them over time, he said.
In drought conditions, nutrients and other pollutants concentrate in lakes, because relatively little water is leaving the water body, Rasmussen said.
''It's not just Athens. Urban stormwater runoff is nasty stuff,'' he said.