No hearing needed on earlier request
Interstate Paper received an NPDES permit for its Riceboro plant in 2003, according to resident manager Al Cantrell.
“Because there wasn’t enough public opinion to warrant a public hearing,” Cantrell said, “we never actual had to go through that.”
“The status has not changed at this point,” EPD unit manager David Bullard said Tuesday morning. “We have not made any determination on the comments received from the hearing.”
About 70 comments were sent to the state office after a public hearing in January.
That made for a total to 350 letters since most of the public found out about the request for a EPD permit to allow up to three million gallons of treated wastewater discharged to the Laurel View River in October.
And there is no standard for EPD reviews after public hearings for national pollutant discharge elimination system permits.
“This one is not anything unusual,” Bullard said of the time taking to review. “We just have to consider all the comments we received.”
Bullard said they are specifically addressing issues the public brought up, including the public notice procedure, the discharge location and its the impact on the receiving stream and aquatic life.
On the state level, legislators are considering whether to extend a 2003 moratorium on aquifer storage and recovery, possibly impacting drinking water.
The suspension, just on the Floridan Aquifer and affecting 11 coastal counties, is set to expire at the end of the year if not extended by the General Assembly.
In ASR, water is taken from a river or other surface water source, treated and injected into the aquifer for storage until used.
Brian Baker, program manager of the EPD Coastal District, said aquifer storage would require treatment, something our region has never had to do.
“Since it’s been under a moratorium for a good long time we’ve haven’t had to consider it here,” Baker said.
Most of Coastal Georgia uses the aquifer for drinking water.
“We got a really sweet water source right now that doesn’t have any treatment besides chlorination,” Baker said. “There isn’t any contamination that we have to treat for.”
Baker said treatment includes a process of settling, filtering and disinfecting, usually requiring more cost and space for the plant.
“There’s an increased expense in having to treat surface water [but] there is no water quality drawbacks,” Baker said. “The main drawback for the use of surface water
is the cost of treatment.”
“There’s a fair amount of investment involved with ASR,” agreed Dr. James Kennedy, P.G., state geologist with EPD.
The main motives for the underground system include expanding options for water storage of excess surface water. Storage potential can be in the tens of millions of gallons, according to Kennedy.
“Rather than build reservoirs or large tanks, they treat the water and pump the water to the aquifer underground,” Kennedy explained.
He admitted guarantees can’t be made that the water will not be tainted in a ASR system, but guidelines are in place, including the required underground injection control permit to make sure water fits state standards.
ASR is not a directive, but is suggested as a water quality management tool in the state water management plan.
Kennedy said the technology is new to Georgia, but other states have used ASR since at least the late 1950s.
Beaufort County in South Carolina draws from the Savannah River and uses ASR into the upper Floridan Aquifer.
“We got this great resource that we’re sitting on top of for drinking in water, where the rest of state has to do a fair amount of treatment before use for drinking water,” Baker said.
“I think there needs to be some assurance that we’re not going to negatively impact our source of freshwater if we choose to use the groundwater as a storage area,” Baker said.