University of South Carolina

Riverkeepers Mark Bruce and Alan Mehrzad
Riverkeepers Mark Bruce, left, and Alan Mehrzad protect the Santee and Congaree rivers, respectively.

Continued: Taking the plunge


Unfortunately, the challenges facing the Santee River are common, Bruce explains.

"Population growth in both metropolitan and rural areas has affected water quality, sometimes leading to high levels of arsenic or mercury. Land use is changing: there’s a lot of development, commercial and residential, which causes storm water run off. High levels of nutrients from fertilizers can cause problems.

"There are recreational issues, like trash left behind by people enjoying the water. Drought is a big issue, too," he says. "And the Santee has additional concerns, including a toxic waste dump that sits about 10 yards from Lake Marion."

Bruce’s plans for the Santee include water testing, advocacy work, outreach, and working closely with local, state, and regional agencies.

"I’ll also make presentations to high school students and college students," he says. "It’s important for them to know how to preserve water quality in the future."

Ensuring water quality

To become the first Congaree River riverkeeper, Mehrzad went through the same rigorous application process Bruce did. It was worth it.

"Being riverkeeper is a great gig," he says.

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About the riverkeepers

  • Mark Bruce, 1994 computer science graduate; Santee Riverkeeper
  • Alan Mehrzad, 2005 marine science graduate; completing master's degree in earth and environmental resource management; Congaree Riverkeeper

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