Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, making up about 5% of its mass. Within humans and all other animals, iron plays a crucial role in carrying oxygen within the blood in the form of hemoglobin.
Though it is essential to aquatic organisms and humans, too much of the mineral in waterbodies is a significant hazard. At varying levels, it becomes toxic to different forms of aquatic life. In humans, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, arteriosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and other serious ailments have been linked to excess iron intake. Too much iron in our water can also cause algae blooms. Algal blooms result in lowered dissolved oxygen, which can cause fish kills and even produce neurotoxins.
Iron is typically transported into the environment through water and is naturally present in groundwater. However, water draining from abandoned mines, landfills, or other places where water comes into contact with rusting steel can elevate iron to toxic levels in our waterbodies.
How You Can help
Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact the Cumberland River Compact if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.
Report any acid mine drainage, extremely polluted sites, or suspected environmental violations to the EPA. If you live in Kentucky, also report the problem to the KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement
1) Report Abandoned Mine Drainage - EPA
2) KY Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement Hotline - 502-564-2340
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.
1) Free trees for Tennesseans during TEC's annual statewide 100K Tree Day - TN Environmental Council
2) Purchase Native Wildflower/Grass Alternatives to Mowed Grass - Roundstone Native Seed and/or Seedland
3) Tennessee Aquatic Stream Clean Up and Riparian Tree Grant (Scroll to bottom of linked page for more info) - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
4) General Guidelines for Volunteer Based Riparian Buffer Plantings - TN Environmental Council
5) Improving Stream Channels With Live Staking - UT Extension
6) Tennessee Urban Riparian Buffer Handbook - TN Dept. of Agriculture
7) Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
8) Native Plants for TN - UT Extension
9) Forest Stewardship Program and Landowner Services - KY Division of Forestry
10) Plant Availability Guide - KY Department of Agriculture
11) State Nurseries and Tree Seedlings - KY Division of Forestry
Impervious or impermeable surfaces, like pavement, contribute significantly to polluted stormwater runoff and alter stream flow habitat. If you've got excess pavement you'd like removed, consider a de-paving project with the Compact. Elsewhere, ensure that your downspouts drain to vegetation, gravel, or rainbarrels, rather than impervious surfaces. If you constructing or repairing your driveway, pervious pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate and filter through the ground. If you can’t do the whole drive, consider making only the portion closest to the street pervious.
1) De-paving Work - Cumberland River Compact (Call 615-837-1151)
2) Rain Barrel Sales - Cumberland River Compact
3) Rain Barrels Make Good Sense - UT Extension
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.
1) Advocacy Toolkit - TN Environmental Council
2) Find Your Legislators - Federal Legislators; State Legislators (KY/TN); Local Legislators (KY/TN) 3) A number of organizations work to address impacts to communities from mining in our basin. They include Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Appalachian Voices, KY Waterways Alliance, Southern Environmental Law Center, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment.
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.