Due to recent concerns about unauthorized digging in Gainesville’s urban creeks, Alachua County is reminding residents that the County Water Quality Code prohibits digging in creeks and their banks throughout Alachua County. Individuals found violating the code could receive $125 citations and fines of up to $15,000 for repeat offenders. In addition, digging in any city nature park such as Loblolly Woods Nature Park or Alfred Ring Park is a violation of city ordinances.
Digging in creeks and banks causes water pollution, harms fish and wildlife, leads to soil erosion and destabilization of creek banks, increases flooding, and damages property and public infrastructure.
Due to pollution levels in the creek, the Health Department, Alachua County, and the City of Gainesville do not encourage the use of Hogtown Creek and other urban creeks for public access. The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department monitors the urban creeks for fecal indicator bacteria and routinely finds levels that exceed allowable recreational water values. High levels of fecal indicator bacteria suggests water is being affected by leaking sewer pipes, septic systems, pet waste, or other sources of fecal contamination. If people get creek water into their mouths, nose, eyes, or into scratches or cuts, it can lead to sickness or infections called waterborne illnesses. Gastroenteritis (stomach bugs) is a common waterborne illness associated with bacteria and can sometimes be severe. Ear, nose and eye infections, itchy rashes, and respiratory discomfort are also possible. Children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are always the most vulnerable.
Alachua County, the City of Gainesville, and the Health Department continue to work to reduce pollution in local waterways. To learn more about the County’s water quality and wetland protection codes, visit the Alachua County Water Resources website. To learn more about how you can prevent pollution, visit the Gainesville Clean Water Partnership’s website.
For more information or to report illegal activity, call 352-264-6800.