2019 clean cover

Thirteen Georgia individuals and organizations, including one based in Marietta, have been recognized by the Georgia Water Coalition this week for industry-leading work to protect state waterways.

A Marietta organization has received state recognition for its industry-leading work to educate local government staff about treating and managing wastewater and stormwater.

The Georgia Association of Water Professionals is one of 13 individuals and organizations honored by the Georgia Water Coalition in its “Clean 13” report for 2019.

The report, authored by Joe Cook of the Georgia River Network, was released Thursday in an effort to recognize the best efforts in Georgia to protect the state’s waterways and to urge other organizations, leaders and citizens across the state to borrow from and emulate the highlighted success stories.

The Georgia Association of Water Professionals, headquartered at 1655 Enterprise Way off Cobb Parkway near Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, is the only Cobb County organization to receive critical acclaim as a “clean water hero” this year from the Georgia Water Coalition in its annual report.

“We’re so pleased,” association executive director Pamela Burnett told the MDJ on Thursday. “It’s really gratifying that the Georgia Water Coalition sees the work and the effort and results that the water professionals are achieving, so it’s really great, I’m so happy.”

About 14 people work at the organization, including seven or eight directly involved in training.

Just a few specialize in stormwater management, which has been the organization’s most pressing focus the last couple of years.

Cook told the MDJ the association has long been instrumental in educating and training the people who work for local governments to operate and manage water treatment systems.

Its recent efforts in regards to stormwater management are particularly noteworthy and why the recognition was given, Cook said.

“They play an important role in training the people that are running our wastewater treatment plants, and making sure those people have the training they need to make sure there aren’t any spills of sewage into our rivers,” Cook said. “They also found they were getting all sorts of calls from governments needing help with stormwater management and that’s why we recognized them because there really wasn’t anybody doing that education.”

The priority on stormwater management in recent years relates to new rules and regulations put in place to address problems associated with stormwater runoff into waterways, Cook said.

He said any time it rains hard and there’s a flash flood of water from streets, buildings and parking lots, it carries with it a lot of unwanted sediment, waste and pollutants into creeks and rivers.

Stormwater is often warmer than the water in Georgia’s waterways, because it heats up when it comes into contact with sun-warmed concrete and other surfaces, Cook said, and that too is harmful for the creatures living in creeks and rivers.

The flash-flood nature of stormwater can also cause erosion around waterways, he said.

“Stormwater is kind of the No. 1 pollution problem now, but a lot of local governments don’t have the knowledge and background to understand how to control stormwater,” Cook said.

The Georgia Water Coalition represents more than 260 individuals and organizations across the state, including environmental, conservation, hunting and fishing groups, businesses and faith-based organizations.

“The purpose of the report is to recognize some of these that are taking steps to improve and protect our water,” Cook said. “There’s a lot of individuals and organizations that are doing positive things to improve the health of our rivers and streams.”

The Georgia Association of Water Professionals and others recognized in the report will be honored at a formal celebration in Atlanta in March.

The full report can be found here: https://www.gawater.org/clean-13/clean-13-2019-report

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