Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Adopts Students' Ideas; They Were Dismayed by Poor Health of the City Reservoir, Took Action

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Adopts Students' Ideas; They Were Dismayed by Poor Health of the City Reservoir, Took Action

Article excerpt

Byline: MERRITT MELANCON

COMMERCE, Ga. - When they saw that town leaders were overlooking obvious problems at the city reservoir, a group of Commerce High School students stepped up to protect the lake from the litterbugs, partiers and mud-boggers who were putting the public water supply at risk.

Environmental science teacher Joe Costyn's students were worried about the health of the municipal reservoir and dismayed by what they saw as a lax attitude toward protecting the water source, so they launched a campaign to clean up the area around the 325-acre lake. Less than two weeks after sharing their reservoir protection plan with the Commerce City Council, city workers have instituted most of their suggestions.

"I'm really surprised that they're doing anything about it," said sophomore Matt McLendon, who was pleased with the progress.

The students suggested improvements that consultants have offered before - closing off the reservoir's fishing park to vehicle access and repairing the eroded lake shore.

Many of the projects never were completed because of cost, said Bryan Harbin, manager of the city Water and Sewer Department.

City leaders have considered closing the reservoir's public-access fishing park to prevent the damage they didn't know how to stop, Harbin said.

The students not only came up with ways to complete the projects on the cheap, but also gave Harbin the political momentum he needed to send city workers out to do the work, he told the class when visiting the high school last week.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

"A lot of times people see something going on, and they don't say anything, because they don't think it will do any good," Harbin told Costyn's class. "But this shows that if you bring it up and let people know that you care about it, then something can be done."

Two of Costyn's environmental science classes got the idea to visit the reservoir early in the semester when they were studying the effect that stormwater runoff and other pollution has on water quality. …

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