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Laurel View discharge debate continues
Paul Medders DNR guy at chamber
Paul Medders, a DNR marine education and public outreach specialist, speaks at the Chamber of Commerce People Through Progress Luncheon on Thursday. - photo by Photo by Pat Watkins
It is possible that discharging treated water into the Laurel View River could damage the habitat.
“From the fisheries prospective, putting a lot of freshwater in there will effect the habitat,” Paul Medders, a marine education and public outreach specialist with the DNR, said at a Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Progress Through People luncheon Thursday.
The Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division worker did not, however, say a sewage plant proposed by the Liberty County Development Authority for Tradeport East Business Park would discharge enough water to damage the river.
“That’s what the EPD is trying to decide,” he said when asked whether the Laurel View is a free-flowing river or a contained water system.
LCDA started work on the plant in early 2008, but slowed it earlier this year when objections were raised to issuing a discharge permit that would have allowed up to 3 million gallons of treated water to be pumped into the river a day.
When the objections were raised the Environmental Protection Division of the DNR put off the permit application until the river could be studied more.
And Dr. Elizabeth Booth, the EPD’s manager for the watershed planning and monitoring program, said Friday it would probably take until the end of December for her to complete the study.
“There’s a whole lot of water moving around out there,” she said in a telephone interview, adding that readings were taken at high, low and middle tides, currents recorded at numerous locations and more.
Most of the work was done in August, but some as recently as September and some of the chemical samples taken in August will take up to four months to analyze.
“We got a lot of data. It was a good study,” she said.
Among those waiting for her report to the permitting authority of the EPD is Ron Tolley, CEO of the development authority.
“At this point, we’re just waiting for the EPD to complete its study,” he said Friday.
He emphasizes that much of the debate over the plant has missed the point that the plant is designed to normally send the treated water to holding ponds for reuse on landscaping and possibly some industrial uses. The 3 million gallon a day level is an estimate of what might be needed during wet weather when the ponds could not hold any more.
“The whole point of it is to not send any of it into the river, but to reuse it,” he said.
Most of Medders talk Thursday was about how five major watersheds drain 60 percent of Georgia to the state’s hundred miles of coast. That is why upstate pollution and the “water wars” affect our area and saltmarshes, which are important because of the habitat they provide sea and land creatures.
“After the rain forests, the saltmarshes are the most productive places on Earth,” he said.
And as an example of how fragile a place like the Laurel View River can be, he pointed out that seawater is normally about 3.5 percent salt. Freshwater has negligible salt. Where fresh and saltwater meet, so called brackish water, the salt levels vary depending on where it is in relation to the different kinds of water. And there is a fish, one species of drum, that experts know seek a level of salinity of 2.5 percent to breed. If that level varies more than a couple tenths of a percent, the fish move to another area to breed.
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