Lick Creek Walk spotlights sedimentation impact

Education, Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Stormwater Issues, Water Quality

Posted on March 21st, 2024

Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop points out the inflow of sediment at the confluence of Martin Branch and Lick Creek.

Seventeen creek-lovers donned waders. Another crew stuck to the banks. But they all took a walk down Lick Creek with Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop last Saturday.

Sam cohosted the Lick Creek Walk with Preserve Rural Durham, a group that advocates for responsible development in southeast Durham.

“It was a good turnout and an eclectic bunch. We had quite a mix of attendees — some elected officials and concerned Durhamites activated by seeing what was happening in Ellerbe Creek and heard we were doing the walk, community members who live in the Lick Creek watershed, including one person who was a neighbor to where we were walking,” Sam said.

Creek-walkers suit up in waders for the Lick Creek Walk. Other participants followed along on the banks of the creek.

For nearly two years, Sam has been shining a spotlight on how sediment pollution is impacting local waterways, which the creek-walkers got to experience for themselves.

“There was a lot of concern from everyone seeing the reality of what’s happening in the creek,” Sam said. “Even in a dry period, there was a distinct color difference where the water of Martin Branch meets Lick Creek. There was literal gasping — even though they had seen it in pictures, it’s a totally different experience seeing it in person. It really drives the point home.”

As they walked along Lick Creek, Sam pointed out how sediment running off of clearcut land has built up in the creek.

A yard stick easily sinks into the build-up of sediment in the creek.

“It’s the muck of sedimentation,” she said. “Sediment is not only a problem when it’s suspended in the water column, it’s also a huge problem when it settles on the streambed — it chokes out habitat and subaquatic vegetation.”

Using yard sticks, the group measured how much “muck” had been layered over the streambed, and were shocked by the results: 22 inches in some spots.

“The community really, really cares about this. They really want to see this issue addressed. People were really motivated to take action and asking what they could do,” Sam said. “The takeaway is that Durham needs to do more to protect its waterways from these impacts. Our big ask is for Durham to require developers to do turbidity sampling of their discharges so they don’t continue pumping dirty water into our creeks.”

A long shot of the creek shows the creek running red with sediment, despite the dry weather.
Creek-walkers wade through the buildup of sediment.
Where Martin Branch and Lick Creek meet, the difference in the color of the water is apparent.

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