In response to letters from concerned Bryan and Liberty residents, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has agreed to hold a public meeting and hearing on Jan. 27 to discuss the draft permit for the Liberty County Development Authority’s (LCDA) proposed wastewater treatment facility in Midway.
A growing number of local residents have raised concern that the fresh water discharge from the proposed facility would damage the fragile marsh ecosystem along the coast of Bryan and Liberty Counties. Several have come together to form a formal group, the Coastal Estuary Protection Association, Inc. (CEPA), to combat the creation of the facility.
CEPA member Roy Hubbard said the announcement of a forthcoming public meeting and hearing is good news.
"We’re certainly grateful that the EPD has decided to do it," Hubbard said. "We hope this hearing will serve the purpose of giving everyone a better understanding of what is being attempted here."
Hubbard said the hearing is a direct result of "the tsunami of public concern that has been registered as more and more people discover this project." He encourages all those who have expressed concern to attend the hearing. He also said there should be more public hearings on this topic held across the state.
"The problem here is not confined to Liberty and Bryan," said Hubbard. "It’s a problem for the state of Georgia. There’s a dangerous precedent that could be set here by allowing this plan to go forward.""There could be ever increasing pressure for more and more use of the salt marsh as a dumping ground for pollutants," he said, "when we should be going in a different direction and strengthening the protection of such a vital and sensitive eco-system."
LCDA Director Ron Tolley said it is unfortunate to have a delay in the project, but he understands the EPD’s decision to conduct a hearing based on public demand. He said it is important to have the hearing.
"I look forward to having our scientific experts there, who will show that this project will not have not impact on the river and marshlands," Tolley said.
Tolley said he and his colleagues are concerned about the ecosystem, and many of those in opposition have formed their views based on "rumors and information that simply is not true The hearing will be an opportunity to put the facts in front of everyone. We are not fearful of the hearing because the science will show that this project will not damage the environment."
In a recent meeting, Bryan County Commissioner Glen Willard voiced his opposition to the project. Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones commended the EPD on their decision to hold a public hearing. He said Bryan officials are keeping a close eye on this project, and he will personally attend the meeting.
According to the EPD’s public notice, the public meeting and hearing "will be confined to water quality issues. This hearing will not consider land use or zoning issues."
The notice states the public meeting will be an open forum where LCDA and EPD representatives will be available to answer questions. It also states that information will be available regarding the facility’s draft permit, facility design, discharge location, engineering review and modeling.
The notice states the public hearing, to immediately follow the meeting, will be a formal process to receive comments on the draft permit, and each participant will be allowed to speak for five minutes. In addition, written statements are being accepted now through Feb. 5 at the Atlanta EPD office. Address comments to: Director, Environmental Protection Division, Department of Natural Resources, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Suite 1152 S.E., Floyd Towers East, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.
The public meeting and hearing are slated for Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Midway Civic Center at 9397 East Oglethorpe Hwy. in Midway.