Continuous delays in action by the state and Georgia Power Co. have led a water conservation group to put a Floyd County river back on a dubious list.
The Georgia Water Coalition named its “Dirty Dozen” for 2014 on Wednesday. The list highlights 12 of what the group contends are the worst offenses to Georgia’s waters.
On the list for the second time in four years is the Coosa River — specifically where it receives warm-water discharges from Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond near Alabama Highway and Fosters Mill Road.
The Georgia Water Coalition is made up of several conservation and environmental organizations, as well as other groups that work to protect the state’s water resources.
The Coosa River Basin Initiative is a member of the group and nominated the waterway for inclusion after waiting for the state Environmental Protection Division to submit a new total maximum daily load plan.
Joe Cook, CRBI advocacy and communication coordinator, said the consistent operation of the electric plant and the discharge of water at elevated temperatures reduces the oxygen levels in the river, which makes it difficult for fish and other wildlife to survive.
“We’re tired of inaction,” Cook said. “We want some action to take place that we believe that will ultimately require Georgia Power to install a cooling tower.”
According to Cook, a cooling tower would cut the plant’s water intake from about 590 million gallons a day to around 30 million gallons a day, drastically reducing the amount of hot-water discharge.
The report notes that Georgia Power recognized the need for a cooling tower by listing it in the utility’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan filed with the Public Service Commission in January 2013.
However, the document states that the utility is not planning to have a cooling tower in service until 2019.
The Georgia Water Coalition’s report encourages Georgia Power to begin the project immediately in order to bring relief to the Coosa River sooner rather than later.
Georgia Power spokesman Brian Green said he couldn’t say when or if a cooling tower is scheduled to be built at Plant Hammond, but the utility is committed to being a good steward of the water it withdraws.
The operation meets all current state rules and regulations on permitting and water withdrawal and return, he said.
“We are always evaluating potential compliance options with future energy regulation,” Green said. “We currently comply and will continue to comply with any new rules and regulations once they’re clarified.”
The EPD called for higher standards for Plant Hammond’s water usage in 2003, to protect the dissolved oxygen levels found in the Coosa system.
When Georgia Power objected to the findings, however, the state scheduled more testing on the river, with plans to use the collected data to come up with updated standards. That round of testing ended in 2008, and CRBI has been asking EPD for several years when they expect to have the plan completed.
Cook said the last time the group asked about the plan the state said it would be 2016 before it would be finalized.
As to why it has taken so long, Cook said that is why they have pushed to include the issue on the list again. It was first named in the inaugural “Dirty Dozen” report in 2011.
Also among the issues the Water Coalition includes in the full report are the state’s decision to no longer enforce laws protecting the coastal marshlands, and its spending to expand water supplies without “a true evaluation” of Georgia’s water resources.