Last week, the Environmental Protection Division held a public hearing to solicit comments on the draft wastewater permit for King American Finishing in Screven County. The hearing was held at Effingham County High School in Springfield and, although I was not there, I understand it was well-attended.
I also understand that the majority, if not all, of the people in attendance were opposed to the permit being issued.
Add me to that list. In a letter dated May 10, 2013, I informed EPD that I am opposed to the issuance of the proposed permit.
The proposed permit is the second issued to KAF since May 2011, when more than 38,000 fish — along with other wildlife such as alligators, turtles and birds — died in the largest recorded aquatic environmental incident in Georgia history. The dead fish and other wildlife were downstream from the discharge pipe of King America.
Since the time of this ecological disaster, the events and actions of the EPD have been well-documented:
• Since 2006, KAF had been operating two flame-retardant lines and had increased its wastewater discharge without getting the proper permits or disclosing it to the EPD.
• Although the EPD inspected KAF several times after the fire-retardant lines were installed, they were not detected by the EPD.
• Under a consent order signed by the EPD and KAF in September 2011, KAF only is required to complete approximately $1 million in environmental projects on the Ogeechee River.
• In August 2012, a wastewater permit was issued by the EPD and subsequently withdrawn, citing the need for KAF to complete an anti-degradation analysis, demonstrating that the lowering of water quality is necessary to accommodate important socioeconomic benefits.
That brings us to where we are today. The EPD will accept written comments up until the close of business today. The proposed permit will be reviewed and likely issued in late July or August.
So why am I opposing it now?
Simply put, the public’s faith in the EPD’s competency and ability to protect our environment and property owners have diminished to the point that it gets a vote of no confidence.
My dealings with the EPD dates back to my service as Pooler mayor in the mid-1990s, when we were establishing the groundwork for the tremendous growth that Pooler continues to experience today. At that time, we fought many battles with the EPD trying to get water-withdrawal permits for our growing city and found it to be extremely difficult to work with.
While serving in the Georgia state legislature in 2006, we reached an agreement with then-EPD Director Dr. Carol Couch to send notification via registered letters to property owners whose land had been reclassified as a result of flood-map revisions. The agreement was nixed after Couch left and a new director was named. However, while trying to implement this notification process, it was discovered that the flood maps used by the EPD and county digest maps identifying property owners would not overlap and, therefore, property owners could not be identified.
As a result of this dilemma, I sponsored legislation to create the Georgia Geospatial Commission, a group of volunteers from public agencies, universities and governments who would work to coordinate and compile geographical information in our state. After three successful years, the commission sunset last June, and this year I sponsored Senate Bill 11, recreating the commission to continue its fine work.
Citing the objections of state agencies, and although it passed in the State Senate unanimously, SB11 was vetoed last week.
The EPD’s handling of the Ogeechee River disaster has been horrible. Communication with local legislators has been non-existent, and citizen outcry has been brushed off as fanatical.
It is because of this pattern of poor communication and performance that the EPD has earned a vote of no confidence by the public and the reason I oppose this permit at this time.
You can connect with Carter, R-Pooler, on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.