December 4, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper, [email protected], 912-441-3908
Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper, [email protected], 912-223-6761
EPD Responds to Dirty Dozen Listing By Proposing Dirty Rule Change
Atlanta, GA—This week, the Board of the Department of Natural Resources will consider changes to a water pollution rule that could harm all of Georgia’s waterways in the interest of industrial polluters.
One week after Rayonier Advanced Materials was listed as a top polluter in the Georgia Water Coalition’s 2017 Dirty Dozen report, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division proposed changes to clean water regulations to allow Rayonier to continue polluting the Altamaha River. The smelly and visible discharge from the facility prevents many community members from swimming and fishing in the area. EPD’s request to change the rule also comes after a state administrative law judge recently ruled that Rayonier AM’s discharge violates existing state water quality rules. In its letter to the Board of Natural Resources, EPD requested approval for amendments that would re-write the regulation:
“All waters shall be free from material related to municipal, industrial or other discharges which produce turbidity, color, odor or other objectionable conditions which unreasonably [language added] interfere with designated [replaces “legitimate”] water uses.”
These changes would have major ramifications and would apply to all of Georgia’s rivers, lakes and streams. Changing “legitimate” to “designated” would reduce legal protections for activities such as boating and swimming. The insertion of “unreasonably” would give industrial polluters an additional loophole to weaken citizen enforcement suits.
“Every waterfront property owner in Georgia and every fisherman, paddler, and swimmer should pay attention,” said Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper. “Your water and your property values are being put in jeopardy by the state agency that is supposed to protect you, but in fact is in the pocket of well-connected, powerful polluters.”
“This isn’t just a simple matter of changing a few words in a meaningless rule—these proposed amendments would gut protections for Georgia’s rivers, streams and creeks across the entire state,” said Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper. “Giving polluters a free pass has already contributed to the degradation of the Altamaha River, and continuing down the path of weaker enforcement does nothing to protect Georgia citizens.”
About the Georgia Water Coalition:
The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of over 240 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations. The Coalition’s mission is to protect and care for Georgia’s surface water and groundwater resources, which are essential for sustaining economic prosperity, providing clean and abundant drinking water, preserving diverse aquatic habitats for wildlife and recreation, strengthening property values, and protecting the quality of life for current and future generations.
DIRTY DOZEN 2017: Dirty Energy, Dirty Politics Top List
For more information contact:
Joe Cook, 706-409-0128, [email protected]
For more information about specific Dirty Dozen sites view the report at: https://www.gawater.org/resources/dirty-dozen
For Immediate Release Nov. 14, 2017: Today, Georgia’s leading water advocacy organizations released their “Dirty Dozen” for 2017 in a 28-page report highlighting 12 of the worst offenses to Georgia’s waters (https://www.gawater.org/resources/dirty-dozen).
The seventh annual Dirty Dozen report shines a spotlight on threats to Georgia’s water and highlights the polluters and the policies or failures that threaten the health and safety of Georgia’s waters. High on this year’s list are rollbacks to clean water protections that benefit the polluters at the cost of Georgians—a recurring theme since the first Dirty Dozen report was released in 2011.
“This report shows how changing policy in Washington, D.C. is having real pollution impacts in Georgia communities,” said Joe Cook, Advocacy and Communication Coordinator for the Coosa River Basin Initiative in Rome. “Couple those changes with continued lackluster funding for state clean water programs, and you have a one-two punch that, if not a knock out, has some of our rivers and lakes on the ropes.”
After bowing to pressure from energy lobbyists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed new rules limiting pollution from coal-fired power plants. This delay directly affects the health of Georgia’s waterways and allows toxins like mercury, lead, arsenic and selenium to continue to be dumped into Georgia waterways.
Likewise, the EPA’s decision to redefine what water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act could leave thousands of miles of Georgia’s streams and thousands of acres of wetlands with no protections.
Meanwhile, at the state level, funding for Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD), the state agency charged with enforcing clean water laws, remains poor. Since 2005, EPD has seen its appropriations fall while state revenues have grown. Adjusted for inflation, Georgia’s 2017 revenue was $3.3 billion more than in 2005, yet in 2017 EPD received almost 25 percent less support from the lawmakers than it did in 2005.
This underfunding has resulted in prolonged delays to cleanup the Coosa River near Rome as well as other water bodies while also hampering the cleanup of hundreds of hazardous waste sites and illegal tire dumps across the state.
And, all too often, the state defends big business rather than protecting ordinary citizens from pollution. On the Altamaha River, despite court rulings asking EPD to fix noxious pollution coming from the Rayonier Advanced Materials facility in Jesup, the state agency continues to defend its actions and the multinational corporation.
“All Georgians deserve better,” said Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper. “We and other Georgia Water Coalition members should not have to file lawsuits to get our state to enforce clean water laws, but too often through lack of funding or lack of political will, EPD fails to protect us and our water.”
Issues highlighted in the Dirty Dozen report include:
- Altamaha River: Pulp mill pollution continues, EPD defends polluter. (Jesup/Wayne County)
- Coosa River: U.S. EPA halts clean water rules for power plants to keep toxic discharges flowing into the river. (Rome/Floyd County)
- Coosa River: Lack of funding leads to failure to conduct pollution studies and delays river cleanup plan. (Rome/Floyd County)
- Georgia’s Public Health: Legislators divert funds intended for clean community programs. (Statewide)
- Georgia’s Streams and Rivers: Legislators stall action to protect vulnerable Georgia streams. (Statewide)
- Georgia’s Well Water: Disposal of coal ash at ill-suited municipal landfills threatens drinking water. (Statewide)
- Georgia’s Wetlands: U.S. EPA efforts to gut clean water act leave streams, wetlands without protections. (Statewide)
- Lake Sinclair: Coal ash pond cleanups send toxins into popular reservoir. (Milledgeville/Baldwin, Putnam, Hancock counties)
- Savannah River: Natural gas facility poses risk to Savannah, U.S. energy independence. (Savannah/Chatham County)
- Savannah River: Risky nuclear boondoggle harms rivers, ratepayers and taxpayers. (Waynesboro/Burke County)
- Terry Creek: Toxic cleanup plan leaves Brunswick residents at risk. (Brunswick, Glynn County)
- Whitewater Creek: Private reservoir proposal tries to tap into state dollars. (Butler, Oglethorpe and Montezuma/Taylor and Macon counties)
The full Dirty Dozen report and individual contacts for each item listed above are available online: https://www.gawater.org/resources/dirty-dozen
The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of more than 240 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations that have been working to protect Georgia’s water since 2002. Collectively, these organizations represent more than 250,000 Georgians.
Mott Foundation Regrant Program
Building New Relationships to Advance Georgia Water Coalition Priorities
Call for Proposals – July, 2017
The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) has identified a need to forge new and strategic partnerships across Georgia to advance GWC priorities as outlined in the 2016 Strategic Plan. With generous support from the Mott Foundation, the Re-Grant Program will provide GWC partner groups with funding to support efforts to advance the GWC’s priority issues in their watersheds or regions. This program will provide grants in the range of $1,000 to $10,000. Georgia River Network (GRN) is administering the Re-Grant program with guidance from a program committee made up of members of the GWC Leadership Team including Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Flint Riverkeeper, GRN, and Georgia Wildlife Federation. The Re-Grant Committee invites GWC partners—e.g. watershed organizations, Riverkeepers, regional organizations, etc.—who are well positioned to cultivate relationships with local decision makers in chambers of commerce, Farm Bureau chapters and other regional institutions, with the near and long-term goals for bringing great influence to bear on state-level elected officials. Re-Grant funds will be awarded to partner groups to implement strategic projects that further the progress on GWC priority issues listed in the 2016 Strategic Plan. Eligibility for a re-grant requires that the proposed work take place in Georgia. The organization must be a GWC Partner and non-profit 501c3 organization. To apply, submit a one page proposal in a word document format that includes a project budget, identifies measurable and achievable results and outlines the work plan for the project. Submit the proposal via email to Dana Skelton at [email protected] by August 31, 2017. The funds will be disbursed to grantees upon receipt of a signed grant contract. Projects must be underway by February 15, 2018 and a report on progress will be due at that time. If you do not have a copy of the 2016 GWC Strategic Plan, contact Gina Rogers at [email protected].
For Immediate Release
Required Groundwater Report Running Behind Schedule
ATLANTA, GA (July 11, 2017)—During the 2015 Georgia Legislative Session the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1198, which required the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to issue a report detailing its review of current underground drinking water regulations by June 30, 2017. The report has yet to be issued by EPD, but new groundwater contamination has been identified since 2015 as a result of leaking coal ash ponds at coal fired power plants round the state. Read the full release at https://www.gawater.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/2017_07_11Groundwater-report-late.pdf