As far back as 2010, the Ogeechee River has been called one of the most threatened rivers in the country by environmental groups such as the Southeast Environmental Law Center.
The fish kill in 2011 was, to put it mildly, an example of what can happen when industries break the rules, state agencies don’t do their jobs and the public doesn’t do its job and hold elected officials accountable.
Yes, apart from ourselves for not paying more attention, elected leaders are the ones we need to blame for such tragedies.
After all, its our legislators and governors who set budgets for agencies we expect to protect our natural resources.
Well, there’s more bad environmental news out there, only this time it’s not about the Ogeechee River, but the Savannah River and our state’s waterways as a whole,
According to a report released with little fanfare in late June by the Environment Georgia Research & Police Center, the Savannah River is the third most polluted river in the country, with more than 5.03 million pounds of toxic chemicals discharged into it in 2012 — that according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory for that year, the most recent available.
And if that isn’t bad enough, Georgia’s waterways were on the receiving end of more than 10.1 million gallons of toxic chemicals in 2012, making the state the eighth worst for toxic releases. Again.
Apparently, the top 10 for that dubious honor of most polluted waterways has gone unchanged since 2010.
While the impact on the environment is, or should be, obvious, there’s also the health hazards this level of pollution can cause to man. It shouldn’t take a chemist or a rocket scientist to figure out that chemicals toxic to fish and wildlife are very probably going to be toxic to us.
The solutions proposed by environmentalists seem to be common sense. Restore the Clean Water Act protections to all American waterways while also requiring that industries reduce use of toxic chemicals and stop putting them in public waters.
The public also needs to be kept informed, and to pay attention.
Were it not for 30,000 fish floating belly up in the Ogeechee, it may have taken us months, if not years, to realize just how much trouble the river was in thanks to years of illegal dumping by King America Finishing
And it's not just the Ogeechee or the Savannah River we need to be concerned about, either. Our groundwater supply from the Floridan is also at risk.
It's not outside the realm of possibility for us to wake up one morning and find ourselves in the same boat as 300,000 folks in West Virginia did earlier this year, when thousands of gallons of a coal-washing chemical leaked from an unregulated above-ground storage tank into the Elk River poisoned their water supply.
According to the University of Georgia, groundwater sources such as the Floridan “are highly susceptible to contamination from nonpoint source pollution, leaking landfills and underground storage tanks, and industrial processes.”
It's time for the state to require those industries responsible for the mess in the Savannah to clean up their act.