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Pathogens’ presence indicates that water is contaminated by human or animal waste. Persons who come into contact with pathogens found in water can suffer headaches, diarrhea, cramps, nausea or other gastrointestinal illness. Two common pathogens found in water are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. These parasites are the cause of two of the most common waterborne diseases in the U.S. Both can persist in the environment for months and are highly resistant to disinfection. Young children and people with compromised immune systems may be particularly at risk from pathogens. Certain species of fish and wildlife are unaffected by these microbes while other species experience symptoms similar to humans.

Pathogens can enter waterways by way of sewer overflows, leaking sewer lines, and polluted stormwater that washes bacteria from undisposed pet waste into the nearest stream. Pet waste that is left in the street, dog park, or even a person’s backyard contributes to major water quality problems in Nashville. In agricultural areas, poorly chosen feeding, watering, and waste management locations can allow pathogens to make their way into our water. In rural settings, failing septic systems are often significant contributors to pathogen impairments.

In urban areas, high concentrations of pathogens are most often associated with heavy rainfall, which causes sewer system problems and carries pathogens from animal waste into our waterways.


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  • Adopt

    Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.

    Learn more about adopting a stream

  • Pick up after your pet.

    Pick up after your pet when s/he is on a walk, at the dog park, or in your own backyard. Dispose of this waste in the trash or toilet. Many pet stores and retailers sell biodegradable bags for picking up waste. Some companies offer pet waste removal services. You can also start a pet education campaign in your neighborhood and/or distribute biodegradable pet waste bags.

    Resources include:

  • Employ agricultural best management practices.

    Excluding farm animals from this waterway and providing them with alternative sources of water can prevent animals from trampling streamside vegetation and defecating in the waterway.

    Resources include:

  • Allow for natural growth near waterways

    If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.

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  • Plant a rain garden

    Rain gardens can filter and infiltrate stormwater that flows across your yard.

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  • Support public funding of water treatment plants and sewer infrastructure.

    Water related infrastructure is expensive and obtaining funding for necessary sewer and water treatment improvements is often a challenge for communities. However, public dollars are critical to our water quality and public health. Support your community’s efforts to properly maintain it’s water related infrastructure.

    Resources include:

    • America’s Infrastructure Report Card – American Society of Civil Engineers
    • How Sewage Pollution Ends Up in Rivers – American Rivers
    • Greening Water Infrastructure – American Rivers
  • Organize with others in your community. Make your voices heard and your votes count.

    Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official and let them know this is concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations.

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  • Spread the word.

    Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.