The Georgia Water Coalition’s annual Dirty Dozen report highlights a combination of broad concerns over pollution of the state’s rivers, streams and groundwater and threats posed by specific projects.
The report, released Tuesday, also includes items that have appeared previously on the list and remain unaddressed as well as newly identified issues.
Topping the seven returning concerns are a coal ash pond at Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer that residents of nearby Juliette say is polluting their drinking water, pollution of the Altamaha River from the Rayonier Advanced Materials chemical pulp mill in Jesup, a proposed titanium mine adjacent to the Okefenokee Swamp and Spaceport Camden, a proposed rocket launching facility in Camden County opposed by property owners on nearby Little Cumberland Island as a safety hazard.
Another issue back on the coalition’s list not tied to a specific project is the Right to Farm Act, which drew opposition in the General Assembly this year from environmental advocates who argued it would make it easier for large animal-waste generating livestock operations to locate in Georgia. While the bill failed to make it through the legislature this year, supporters are vowing to reintroduce it in 2021.
New items that made the list include the discharge of untreated sewage in the Chattahoochee River in Columbus within a popular whitewater paddling run, a proposed landfill that has drawn opposition in Brantley County and a proposed $20 million development within the floodplain of Little Lotts Creek near downtown Statesboro.
One past item from the list was addressed this month when Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the diversion of tax money from environmental trust funds that are supposed to be used to clean up hazardous waste sites and illegal tire dumps.
“That amendment is the first step in keeping millions of dollars dedicated to their intended purposes, and we hope we never spend ink on that issue in this report again,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative in Rome.
“This is our 10th annual report, and the goal each year is to correct these issues so that they’ll never be considered for the Dirty Dozen again.”