Georgia’s leading water-protection group recently 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 2012 list includes:
1. Ogeechee River: In May 2011, after five years of King America Finishing Co. dumping toxic substances into the Ogeechee River, some 38,000 fish died — the largest known fish kill in Georgia’s history. More than a year later, KAF still has not been held accountable, and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper has had to file legal appeals to force EPD to follow the law and clean up the mess.
2. South River: Near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is a site so polluted with heavy metals and other hazardous substances that Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division has placed it on the state’s hazardous site inventory.
3. Flat Creek: The Chattahoochee River has been the center of a water dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Georgia tried to circumvent federal control over the Chattahoochee by damming its tributaries.
4. Flint River: When Nathan Deal became governor in 2011 he created a $300 million water-supply program to fund “critical, cost-effective” projects that will provide clean and affordable water for communities in need. In August 2012, the Deal administration released the first $102 million in this program. The bulk of the money went to reservoir projects of dubious need and to businesses and individuals that were supporters of Deal’s gubernatorial campaign.
5. Richland Creek: Paulding County leaders are promoting an unnecessary $85 million project that threatens a population of federally protected fish that are only found in the Etowah River basin. The project is being built for the Paulding County water system, which cannot account for 25 percent of the water it purchases from a neighboring water system due to leaky pipes and metering problems.
6. Altamaha River: Rayonier’s pollution has fouled the Altamaha River for miles as the pulp mill’s discharge turns the river black and pulpy and leaves it smelling rancid. The EPD requested that Rayonier apply for a renewed wastewater discharge permit but, the company still has not fixed its discharge.
7. Chattahoochee River: Twice in 2012, Bull Sluice Lake, a reservoir on the Chattahoochee River formed by Morgan Falls Dam near Atlanta, nearly disappeared, stranding boaters on mudflats. The sudden drop in Bull Sluice’s elevation was the result of a communication glitch. As a result of the glitch, Chattahoochee River flows below Buford and Morgan Falls dams dipped to unprecedented lows with unknown water-quality consequences.
8. Satilla River: Filling in an obsolete timber barge route could result in restoration of striped bass, herring, eel and shad migrations in Camden County’s coastal creeks and the Satilla River.
9. Allen Creek: The proposed expansion of a landfill poses a serious threat to Allen Creek and the Oconee River.
10. Tired Creek: Grady County’s proposed fishing lake will destroy more than 300 acres of wetlands and nine miles of streams and will alter flows on the Ochlockonee River. It will also put county taxpayers on the hook for at least $15 million.
11. Savannah River: The Southern Company wants to build 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.
12. Patchila Creek: In Southwest Georgia, some 150,000 tires sit at the Randolph County Transfer Station in Cuthbert awaiting proper disposal and recycling. The risk of fire is always present—a catastrophe that could release contamination into waterways feeding Patchila Creek.