Will a proposed wastewater treatment facility in Liberty County threaten the fragile marsh ecosystem in Bryan County?
Richmond Hill man Roy Hubbard and several other Bryan residents say it will - and they’re prepared to fight it.
"My goal is to flood the EPD (Environmental Protection Division) with hundreds of requests for a public hearing," said Hubbard, one of a number of Bryan residents who are organizing to oppose the plant. "They need to be aware of the dangers here."
Recently, the Liberty County Development Authority (LCDA) applied for a permit to build a wastewater treatment center near the Target distribution center, just east of Midway, to accommodate a large scale development project. Hubbard said water discharged from a wastewater facility could devastate the marshlands and harm sea life along the local coast.
But others disagree.
Scott Southwick, an environmental engineer with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, said there will "absolutely be a discharge" from the proposed facility, but it will not be in measurements that could have a negative impact on the ecosystems in Bryan and Liberty Counties.
"We look at projects based on science," Southwick said. "We’re going to be protective and make sure this project does not impact the local eco system."
He said permit limits regarding water discharge are set in consideration of potential environmental impact. He also said the EPD works hand in hand with the Department of Natural Resources, whose task is to protect the marshlands. Southwick said a public hearing on the issue is likely.
Meanwhile, LCDA Director Ron Tolley said there is no reason for concern.
"I can almost guarantee you that we are more concerned about this issue than anyone," Tolley said. "We are being very careful in making sure this project is sensitive to the environment."
Tolley said the proposed facility is more aptly called a "water reclamation facility," because it plans to recycle most of the wastewater intake for re-use as irrigation and other means.
"This will serve a double purpose," Tolley said. "It will help with our water withdrawal issues while also minimizing any water going into the river. We went with the best possible system for the environment."
Southwick said the maximum discharge projected for this facility is three million gallons per day. In comparison, Savannah’s treatment center discharges 20 million gallons per day.
But Hubbard remains unconvinced the project is safe.
"There’s no end to the potential for damage," he said, noting he has contacted Bryan County officials as well as Sen. Eric Johnson for help.
Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones said he and Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed have discussed the Liberty County project and are watching it closely. He said, however, that the potential for the facility to directly release the treated water is unlikely. Jones said the EPD "simply won’t allow you do that," and has worked with LCDA discussing the project.
Hubbard still plans on opposing the project, however.
"I have no problem with development," Hubbard said. "I just draw the line at messing with the marsh line. We are down to one third of the marshlands along the eastern seaboard. Two-thirds are gone from pollution and from lack of foresight from governing agencies. We have a moral obligation to protect our marshlands. It’s up to us as citizens to protect it."
The deadline to weigh in favor of a hearing is Nov. 24.