The Georgia Environmental Protection Division will have a public meeting and hearing this week at the Midway Civic Center in order to give a presentation and receive input regarding the pending EPD permit for the Liberty County Development Authority’s proposed wastewater treatment facility in Midway.
"We realize there has been a lot of interest in this project, and we’re certainly getting a lot of phone inquiries about the meeting," said Scott Southwick, an environmental engineer with the EPD. "I think it will be well attended, and we look forward to everyone’s comments on this project."
Southwick said the 7 p.m. meeting will include a presentation of the EPD’s findings on the proposed facility – aimed to answer the questions the public may have. He said several different tables will be set up, each concerning a different aspect of the facility, such as compliance and permitting. He said handouts and an expert will be available at each table to answer questions.
Southwick said the 8 p.m. hearing will include the panel of EPD experts answering short oral questions from those in attendance. He said there is a five minute time limit and advises those who may take longer to turn in their comments in written form.
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 impact 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."
Coastal Estuary Protection Association President Allen Davis said he is also looking forward to the public hearing "to make our case why there should not be wastewater discharge into a saltwater basin in Georgia." He said it will permanently damage the ecosystem along the Laurel View River and create a precedent that could potentially ruin marshlands all along the Georgia coast.
"We now have now some scientific evaluation of the situation which I plan to present," Davis said. "It will show the long term negative impact this type of permit will have on our coast."
Davis said he is counting on the EPD to do the responsible thing.
"After all, it’s in their name – they need to protect our environment and deny this permit," Davis said.
Meanwhile, Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones said he will be at the meetings, and there are indeed some concerns of how this project could affect the Bryan coastal marshlands.
"We continue to keep a close eye on this project," Jones said. "We’ve heard from CH2MHill, who designed this project - from an engineering perspective, but we’re still looking for someone to present some sound science on this project."
Jones said he met with EPD officials this week and expressed the same sentiment to them. He said he looks forward to the EPD’s presentation and hopes it will shed some light on the facts of the plant’s potential.
Jeff Larson, with the EPD Atlanta office, said there is no set time for a ruling to be rendered, "but we’re going to try to make a determination as soon as possible because we know there are a lot of people waiting on it."
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., which is also Hwy. 84. in Midway. The civic center is located at the site of the old Liberty County Elementary School.