Continued: Taking the plunge
An avid fisherman and canoeist, Mehrzad began a love affair with Columbia’s rivers when he moved from Virginia to attend Carolina. He finished a degree in marine science in 2005 and then went to work in the private sector.
He returned to Carolina after a year to get a master’s degree in earth and environmental resource management. He’ll finish that degree in May.
Through it all, he’s kept an eye on the Congaree River.
"Last summer, a private utility allowed untreated sewage to leak into the Saluda and Congaree rivers," he says. "A lot of people called for a local riverkeeper, someone who could have identified the filth in the water, acted quickly to plug the source, and then monitored the water to make sure the leakage had stopped.
"I mentioned the situation to a friend who is a riverkeeper in Virginia, and he urged me to contact the national Waterkeeper Alliance and apply for the position. So I did."
A community approach
As riverkeeper, Mehrzad will be an advocate for a 90-mile stretch of the Congaree, Broad, and Saluda rivers. He will investigate tips on pollution, conduct water tests, check paper records, and celebrate the recreational value of the waterways.
Charged with a new and large task, both Mehrzad and Bruce are focusing on filing as non-profit organizations, recruiting boards of directors, and raising funds to fuel water testing and community programs.
"I plan to take a community approach to protecting the rivers," Mehrzad says. "I want this to benefit college kids who float down the river on Saturdays, fishermen who catch their families’ dinners in the river, and people who have homes on the river."