No. 4: TOWNS COUNTY, GA.
This is one Scarlett
from Georgia who hits the ground running
By Tom Bennett
Special to Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition
Hiwassee, Ga., Feb.
19, 2013 --- A state
of Georgia grant has made it possible for a trained
professional, who turned out to be Scarlett Fuller,
to be named Lake Chatuge Watershed Coordinator for
the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition.
Fuller had been in the position only a few months when she
faced her first crisis, and it came from the North Carolina
N.C. Division of Public Health issued an advisory against
eating Lake Chatuge white or largemouth bass after tests
showed elevated mercury levels.
Fuller moved speedily to help clarify the matter, and
residents asked if the problem existed here, she introduced
Towns County Herald readers to new facts of marine
don’t know where state boundaries are,” Fuller said.
advisory remains in effect for those two species, and
especially applies for pregnant women and children under
15. “Others should limit their consumption to one meal a
week,” she said.)
Americans love rivers. A few are willing to arise from the
recliner and go help them. For Fuller, leading the
Georgia’s Rivers Alive cleanup day on Lake Chatuge was
a lot of fun to see people coming together for a common
cause,” she said. “People have fun and laugh. Who knew
picking up trash could be so much fun?”
March 2007 Lake Chatuge Watershed Action Plan skillfully
defines water-quality problems, bluntly identifies sources,
and breaks out for the leaders and the interest groups what
has to be done.
Immediately coming to the smelly fore is the pollution from
leaking and flawed septic systems at some lakeside homes.
“That’s one of the first big problems in the Lake Chatuge
watershed that we’ve pushed out (to the forefront),” Fuller
said. “It’s always been a part of the plan. It just took
forever to get the money. To finally get to implement it is
commented that you need youth, fitness and strength to deal
with a 7,000-acre man-made impoundment 13 miles long,
sprawling across parts of two states and through parts of
two national forests.
“Sure you do, and when you think about it that way, yes,
it’s a big undertaking,” Fuller replied.
asking her to forget how I’d characterized the daunting task
so she won’t resign, I asked, “What keeps you going?”
beauty around me,” she said. “I’ll see fog or mist or
clouds or blue sky and the mountains, and I’m inspired to
continue working hard for clean water…
“Yes, I do kayak and I love a little bit of whitewater,”
Fuller said. “I paddle a lot on the Chattahoochee because
it’s very paddle-able. I guess I just invented a word.”
FULLER HAS HER DEGREE in biology from Armstrong Atlantic
State in Savannah and a master’s in environmental health
from the University of Georgia.
parents named her for Scarlett O’Hara of “Gone with the
Wind.” Can you see where I’m going with this? Just before
intermission, the beleaguered fictional Scarlett is digging
a radish from the ground of the ruined Tara. She’s asked how
she’ll ever solve her crushing problems. She replies: “We’ll
think about it tomorrow.”
asked the environmentalist Fuller, you’re a different type
of Scarlett, aren’t you?
I am,” she replied. “We don’t need to wait until later,
because later will be too late.”
city of Hiwassee once procrastinated like the movie
Scarlett, but now thanks to good leadership, it has become a
pacesetter. It adopted a storm-water ordinance. Its
treatment-plant lab is the site of testing of water samples
taken by Fuller and her volunteers. Apathy’s what? It’s
gone with the wind at the lake.
* * *
Tom Bennett of the Martins Creek
community near Murphy, N.C., is a retired newsman and
Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition member/volunteer.
E-mail him at
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