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Ogeechee named to water coalitions Dirty Dozen
Ogeechee river
Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Weddincamp investigates discharge from a King America Finishing plant discharge pipe on the Ogeechee River in July 2011. - photo by Statesboro Herald file photo

Georgia’s leading water-protection group recently named its “Dirty Dozen” for 2012, exposing the worst offenses to Georgia’s water. The sites range from an unnecessary reservoir in northeast Georgia to a tire dump in southwest Georgia.

The 2012 list includes:

1. Ogeechee River: One year after the largest fish kill in state history, pollution continues

In May 2011, after five years of King America Finishing Co. dumping toxic substances into the Ogeechee River, some 38,000 fish died — the largest known fish kill in Georgia’s history. With funding for its Emergency Response Team gutted, it took Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division days to respond to this tragedy and warn the public. And, it took almost a month for EPD to instruct the company to stop the dumping. More than a year later, KAF still has not been held accountable, and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper has had to file legal appeals to force EPD to follow the law and clean up the mess.

2. South River: Chronic looting of hazardous waste trust fund by legislators leaves hazardous waste site cleanup for another day

Near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is a site so polluted with heavy metals and other hazardous substances that Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division has placed it on the state’s hazardous site inventory. There’s no money to pay for a cleanup because for the past eight years, Georgia’s General Assembly has looted state funds.

3. Flat Creek: Boondoggle Reservoir Project threatens Lake Lanier, Chattahoochee River and downstream communities

The Chattahoochee River has been the center of a water dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Georgia tried to circumvent federal control over the Chattahoochee by damming its tributaries. The most glaring example of this strategy is Hall County’s proposed $95 million Glades Reservoir on Flat Creek. This project would divert and impound water that otherwise would fill Lake Lanier, interfering with federal management of the lake.

4. Flint River: Governor’s water-supply program invests in boondoggles instead of water supply 

When Nathan Deal became governor in 2011, he created a $300 million water-supply program to fund “critical, cost-effective” projects that will provide clean and affordable water for communities in need. In August 2012, the Deal administration released the first $102 million in this program. The bulk of the money went to reservoir projects of dubious need and to businesses and individuals that were supporters of Deal’s gubernatorial campaign.

5. Richland Creek: Unnecessary reservoir wastes tax dollars, threatens downstream communities, endangered fish

Paulding County leaders are promoting an unnecessary $85 million project that threatens a population of federally protected fish that are only found in the Etowah River basin. The project is being built for the Paulding County water system, which cannot account for 25 percent of the water it purchases from a neighboring water system due to leaky pipes and metering problems.

6. Altamaha River: Rayonier Pulp Mill continues to foul Georgia’s Little Amazon

Rayonier’s pollution has fouled the Altamaha River for miles as the pulp mill’s discharge turns the river black and pulpy and leaves it smelling rancid. The EPD requested that Rayonier apply for a renewed wastewater discharge permit, but the company still has not fixed its discharge.

7. Chattahoochee River: State fails to ensure minimum flows at Atlanta

Twice in 2012, Bull Sluice Lake, a reservoir on the Chattahoochee River formed by Morgan Falls Dam near Atlanta, nearly disappeared, stranding boaters on mudflats. The sudden drop in Bull Sluice’s elevation was the result of a communication glitch. As a result of the glitch, Chattahoochee River flows below Buford and Morgan Falls dams dipped to unprecedented lows with unknown water-quality consequences.

8. Satilla River: Action needed to restore fisheries in coastal waters

Filling in an obsolete timber barge route could result in restoration of striped bass, herring, eel and shad migrations in Camden County’s coastal creeks and the Satilla River.

9. Allen Creek: Landfill operators threaten streams, minority community

The proposed expansion of a landfill poses a serious threat to Allen Creek and the Oconee River.

10. Tired Creek: Unnecessary fishing lake puts taxpayers on the hook, threatens downstream communities

Grady County’s proposed fishing lake will destroy more than 300 acres of wetlands and nine miles of streams and will alter flows on the Ochlockonee River. It will also put county taxpayers on the hook for at least $15 million.

11. Savannah River: Two new nuclear reactors threaten health of Savannah River

The Southern Company wants to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River. Though new and safe technologies exist that would require less water, Southern Company plans to rely on water-intensive cooling systems for these reactors.

12. Patchila Creek: Georgia legislators loot trust funds for cleanup of tire dumps, leaving their hometown communities at risk

In Southwest Georgia, some 150,000 tires sit at the Randolph County Transfer Station in Cuthbert awaiting proper disposal and recycling. The risk of fire always is present—a catastrophe that could release contamination into waterways feeding Patchila Creek.

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