Atlanta, GA (November 14,2012) – Today, Georgia’s leading water protection group named its “Dirty Dozen” for 2012, exposing the worst offenses to Georgia’s water. The sites range from an unnecessary reservoir in northeast Georgia to a tire dump in southwest Georgia.
The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of 175 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 300,000 Georgians.
“This list not only highlights some of the most egregious water pollution problems in our state, but also calls attention to state policies that harm our rivers and waste our tax dollars,” said April Ingle, executive director at Georgia River Network. “The sites on this list are examples of Georgia’s failures to protect our water, our fish and wildlife and our communities.”
Topping the list for the second year in a row is the Ogeechee River where a textile manufacturing plant’s toxic discharge led to the death of some 38,000 fish in May 2011. A hazardous waste site adjacent to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Glades Reservoir proposed near Gainesville, a Flint River groundwater injection experiment near Albany, Richland Creek Reservoir proposed in Paulding County and Rayonier’s pulp mill in Jesup round out the top six.
Minimum flow requirements on the Chattahoochee in Atlanta ranked seventh on the list, followed by a century-old navigational cut through the Satilla River salt marsh, a landfill with ties to Gov. Nathan Deal in Gainesville, Tired Creek Reservoir proposed near Cairo, the expansion of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant on the Savannah River and a tire dump in Cuthbert.
The Coalition’s full report details the history of each site and provides solutions to correct these ongoing pollution problems and eliminate the listed threats. It is available online at: http://www.garivers.org/gawater/dirtydozen.htm.
The Coalition faults continuing funding cuts to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD), political cronyism at the highest levels of state government and the wasteful use of state tax dollars as the primary causes of these ongoing threats to our state’s streams, rivers, lakes and coastal areas.
EPD has seen its funding cut by 44 percent and staff cut by 23 percent (250 positions) since 2008, seriously jeopardizing its ability to enforce the state’s environmental laws.
Even more problematic, said the Coalition, is the cronyism that puts campaign contributors and their business interests on the Governor-appointed Department of Natural Resources Board, which oversees EPD—the agency that regulates those same businesses.
Board members who have spoken up for the protection of waterways have been systematically removed from the board and replaced with political cronies. Of the 16 members currently serving, 11 have ties to entities that EPD regulates. Even the current Director of EPD, a political-appointee of Gov. Nathan Deal, previously served as a lobbyist for a firm that represents industry and business groups.
“The Deal Administration’s appointments and actions suggest that enforcing environmental laws are not a priority,” said Joe Cook, Executive Director & Riverkeeper with the Rome-based Coosa River Basin Initiative. “Track the money divvied out in Gov. Deal’s new water supply program and you get further clarity about this administration’s priorities and allegiances.”
In August, the Deal administration directed $102 million in state dollars to reservoirs and water supply projects of dubious need, including some $9 million in state “investments” that directly benefited businesses and individuals that were major donors to his gubernatorial campaign, according to the Coalition.
At the same time, state funding for lower cost projects to maximize existing water supplies has languished.
“The $102 million that Gov. Deal directed to questionable and environmentally destructive water supply projects this year is more than three times the $30 million in state dollars invested by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority in water conservation and efficiency projects from 2006-2010,” said Sally Bethea, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
The Dirty Dozen list was compiled by the Coalition after taking nominations from member groups across the state. This is the second such list. While four issues from the 2011 Dirty Dozen made return appearances this year, other issues did not return to the list this year because they were resolved; still others continue to threaten our water. Updates of the 2012 Dirty Dozen are included in the full report which can be viewed at: http://www.garivers.org/gawater/dirtydozen.htm.
Among the new additions to the 2012 list is Plant Vogtle, where Southern Company hopes to build two new nuclear reactors that will threaten the Savannah River. Along Georgia’s rivers, you’ll find 17 fossil-fuel-fired and nuclear-powered electric generation facilities. Water pumped from our rivers is critical in the power generation process as it is used to cooloperating systems and keep electricity flowing to our homes, businesses, industries and farms. In fact, more water is pumped from Georgia’s water bodies to produce electricity than is removed for any other use—nearly fifty percent of Georgia’s total water use. These facilities permanently remove about 187 million gallons a day (MGD) fromGeorgia’s rivers—enough water to supply the cities of Augusta, Savannah, Columbus, Macon, Albany and Rome. Now, the Southern Company wants to add to that drawdown on Georgia’s rivers by building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River. Though new and safe technologies exist that would require less water, Southern Company plans to rely on water-intensive cooling systems for these reactors. THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIRTY DOZEN SITES AND INDIVIDUAL CONTACTS FOR EACH ARE AVAILABLE AT http://www.garivers.org/gawater/dirtydozen.htm.