SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Georgia Water Coalition released its Dirty Dozen List for 2019 on Thursday.
“We wished we didn’t need to publish this report,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, Executive Director and Riverkeeper with the Coosa River Basin Initiative in Rome. But, every year, new threats to Georgia’s water arise and unfortunately, the state’s lax enforcement of environmental laws and its failure to fully fund important environmental programs continues.”
The Coalition said seven of the 12 issues highlighted in the report have been cited before. That includes the Rayonier Advanced Materials chemical pulp mill in Jesup. The Coalition said Rayonier and concerns about the pollution of the Altamaha River are being cited for the seventh time.
“If this year’s report has a theme it would be repeat offenders,” said Joe Cook from the Georgia River Network.
The Coalition says it remains concerned about the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. “The state agency has repeatedly defended its existing and weak pollution control permit,” said Cook.
The Dirty Dozen report outlines concerns about the issuance of a new permit in 2020 and urges it be more strict. We reached out to an EPD spokesman who told us they can’t comment because of pending litigation.
The report outlines other issues such as funding and says state lawmakers continue to raid funds collected for environmental cleanups for use in other budget areas.
A number of items addressed concerns about future issues of water quality regarding coal ash ponds and plans by Georgia Power for mitigation.
“Rather than moving coal ash held at these facilities to safer disposal areas like lined landfills, Georgia Power Company wants to keep some of these coal ash pits at the facilities in unlined storage despite that it’s showing that this is contaminating groundwater at the sites and despite the fact that leaving them in place risks catastrophic releases of coal ash into our waterways,” said Demonbreun-Chapman.
He even suggested that the Public Service Commission which is currently considering a rate case right now from Georiga Power should reject any rate increases for “inadequate coal ash clean up plans.”
The Coalition also took another shot at EPD saying the state agency should require Georgia Power to excavate its coal ash ponds from unlined pits and dispose of it in safer, dry lined landfills.
The EPD spokesman did provide a comment about that saying “Regarding coal ash, electric utilities must demonstrate that their proposed closure plans meet all the performance criteria established in the federal and state rule. EPD is still reviewing the applications to determine whether those criteria have been met. At a minimum, the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) unit must be closed in a manner that will control, minimize or eliminate, to the maximum extent feasible, post-closure infiltration of liquids into the waste and releases of CCR, leachate, or contaminated run-off to groundwater or surface waters.