By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Residents want plant plans flushed
Hearing delves into sewage plant permit
Crosby and Baker
Darrell Crosby and Brian Baker, representatives from EPD compliance and enforcement, answer questions during the first half of the public hearing . - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
Feared permanent ecological damage and harm to the area’s marine business set a couple hundred citizens abuzz in a sort of grassroots uprising at a public hearing for the proposed east-end sewage plant Tuesday.
While opposition rang clear through cheers and whistles, it’s “really going to be hard to say,” if it will stop a permit for the plant that could eventually discharge three million gallons of treated wastewater a day, some of it possibly into the Laurel View River, according to David Bullard, unit manager in the state’s Environmental Protection Division.
“This was on the large side from what we’ve had to deal with,” Bullard said of Tuesday’s crowd. “We had a lot people at this hearing, but we’ve had similar hearings.”
Since the issue is still open to public comment, he estimates the decision on the permit will take several weeks.
“We received a lot of comments Tuesday night so it’s going to take some time to evaluate all the comments to make a decision, one or the other on the permit,” Bullard said.
During the hearing Tom Stack, an attorney with an environmental compliance law firm, said he thought there was an “organizational conflict of interest,” with CH2MHill doubling as the lead contractor and researcher for the estimated $30 million project.
“My recommendation is that EPD charter an independent study and for that matter, ask LCDA to pay for it,” Stack said.
But now is the time to act, according to Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley, who said the autority wants to be ready for impending growth.
“Existing excess capacity is required by industrial prospects,” Tolley said. “You will not get the project…if you do not have the excess capacity already available for them.”
Allen Davis of Coastal Estuary Protection Association brought nearly half the crowd to their feet with charges about the plant’s infeasibility and lack of demand.
And “there’s no turning back,” if LCDA gets the permit.
“The bottom line is there certainly hasn’t been enough evidence presented tonight to justify and warrant taking this risk,” Davis said.
He said his fear is the discharge will create an “ever-expanding pool of water which is going to kill everything in that particular environment.”
“Estuaries are complex systems. They are dynamic,” said Dr. Elizabeth Booth with EPD. “However, the net movement of water is out to sea. And that’s kind of like a foxtrot.”
Chandra Brown, representing the Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeepers, said the seven-year organization still sees rivers green with contamination, “because of the state’s failure to adequately permit and enforce the law when it comes to wastewater treatment plants.”
The group’s main qualm is the lack of nitrate monitoring required in the permit.
“We think it’s a potential violation of the law,” Brown said.
LCDA has tried to drive home its intention to reuse as much of the wastewater as possible so the discharge does not throw off the balance of brackish water in the Ogeechee river basin.  
“The freshwater will be part of the normal tide cycle and it will be a nominal amount that will do that dance, back and forth, until it goes out” to St. Catherines Island. Curtis Boswell of EPD explained to a group during the public meeting period of Tuesday’s meeting.
Daniel Scott lives on the Isle of Wight and came to the hearing with pack of written research secured with a binder clip.
Scott’s proposed solution was to consider the Peacock Canal for discharge to help “flush it out,” versus the Medway River.
EPD officials told Scott they could not go in that river.
“What he’s saying is absolutely ludicrous,” Scott said. “What he’s saying is because of room they can’t put it in there –I’m talking about water quality…it’s going to be a freshwater river instead of a saltwater river.”
State Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) listened through the hearing, which ended close to 11 p.m. despite having to be back in Atlanta by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
He believes the EPD “takes a lot of beat-ups and they took it well.”
“You do have the right to disagree,” Williams, who is also on the development authority, said. “When it’s all said and done, we’re going to all live here together.”
Sign up for our e-newsletters