Oostanaula water intake station virtually shut down

In this March 2021 file photo, a view across the Oostanaula River shows Rome’s raw water intake station that is producing a very minimal amount of water now. The city has filed a lawsuit against close to 30 major textile manufacturers in the Dalton area for polluting the river with perfluorinated chemicals.

The Conasauga-Oostanaula riverway contaminated by PFAS is one of the Dirty Dozen problematic areas in the state highlighted in a report from the Georgia Water Coalition.

“Polyfluoroalkyl substances from carpet mills are haunting Northwest Georgians, forcing downstream water providers like the City of Rome to spend millions to remove the harmful chemicals from drinking water,” a Tuesday release from Joe Cook of the Georgia River Network notes. “To date, the state has failed to regulate these chemicals.”

The coalition of environmental advocacy groups has drawn up a Dirty Dozen report for the past 11 years. It’s meant to highlight “the politics, policies and issues that threaten the health of Georgia’s water and the well being of more than 10 million Georgians.”

The Conasauga River flows through Dalton, Resaca and Calhoun to feed the Oostanaula, which joins with the Etowah in Rome to form the Coosa River.

PFAS, used to make carpets and other items stain resistant, have been linked to numerous adverse health impacts.

Shortly after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced health advisories for PFAS in 2016, the Northeast Alabama cities of Centre and Gadsden on the Coosa River filed suit against carpet manufacturers for fouling their drinking water source and forcing them to upgrade their treatment plants.

Two class action lawsuits have also been filed by water customers in Rome and Summerville.

The City of Rome, after switching its main water intake to the Etowah River, also is in the midst of litigation against its upstream neighbors. Last month the city approved a $99.4 million upgrade to its drinking water treatment facility to eliminate the harmful contaminants.

While manufacturers voluntarily phased out some PFAS chemicals, there are still 5,000 proprietary variants in use.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division does not require that manufacturing facilities disclose if they are using PFAS except in cases where a downstream pollution problem has already been identified, and only when it involves public drinking water. Furthermore, EPD has not set limits on how much PFAS these facilities can discharge to the state’s waterways.

In October, the EPA announced that it planned to begin restricting PFAS discharges in 2022, an action that would lead to Georgia enforcing such regulations. However, the Water Coalition is urging the state to act now.

Other sites listed on the Dirty Dozen report are:

♦ Coosawattee River: In Gordon County a proposal to build a 24-house mega chicken farm has prompted homeowners to plead with their county commission to protect their property values, well water and their river.

♦ Chattahoochee & Ocmulgee Rivers: Coal ash at multiple Georgia Power Company fossil fuel plants pollutes groundwater in Cobb, Coweta, Carroll and Monroe counties.

♦ Ogeechee River: A three-year delay in updating pollution control permit allows the continued discharge of dangerous chemicals in Screven County.

♦ Okefenokee Swamp: Proposed heavy mineral sands mine in Charlton County threatens one of Georgia’s natural wonders.

♦ St. Simons Sound: The Golden Ray shipwreck is gone, but the extent of damage to Georgia’s coast still must be evaluated.

♦ Groundwater: A 30-year-old Superfund site in Brunswick still leaches toxins into groundwater and monitoring data suggests those toxins are migrating to neighboring properties.

♦ Georgia’s Coast: Georgia is one of the most vulnerable and least prepared states when it comes to dealing with effects of climate change.

♦ Ocmulgee River: A proposed plastics rendering plant near Macon touted as a solution to plastics pollution is really part of the problem.

♦ Chattahoochee River: Since a family pet died from coming in contact with cyanobacteria while swimming in Bull Sluice Lake in Roswell, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has identified spots on West Point Lake and Lake Harding with the same harmful algal blooms caused by excessive nutrients.

♦ Whitewater Creek: Dirty stormwater runoff from a large mixed-use development is muddying a historic Fayette County creek and lake. Homeowners and Flint Riverkeeper have filed a lawsuit to stop the pollution.

♦ Flint River: Jet fuel and sewage spills repeatedly foul the Flint that flows beneath Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

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