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Sewage plant skeptics blast EPD study
About 100 people turned out for Wednesday's meeting in the Midway Civic Center. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
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“We’re right back where we were,” Lynda Morse told Dr. Elizabeth Booth, a scientist with the Environmental Protection Division, Wednesday night. “Why is the EPD so hell-bent on doing this? Why aren’t you investigating another way?”
The Bryan County resident was taking on the head of the EPD’s watershed planning and monitoring program at a public forum on how to study the Laurel View River, where a sewage treatment plant has been proposed.
The extended study was ordered after public protest in January moved EPD to take a closer look at the discharge permit Liberty County Development Authority wants for the $30 million sewage plant in Tradeport East.
Residents troubled the waters again Wednesday while reviewing the proposed EPD field study to see how up to three million gallons of treated wastewater may impact the Laurel View River basin.
Threats of lawsuits, general claims of ignorance of the study and even accusations of conspiracy with LCDA shot out in rapid secession from the crowd of about 100.
“We’re not trying to hide anything,” Booth said, adding EPD considered the public’s suggestions.
“In the original model, we did not include the Jerico River, having gone back, we realized it’s probably real important.”
“What I’m hearing you say is we, we, we, which sounds like EPD,” said attorney Tom Stack.
A permitting authority should not be conducting the validating study, according to Stack. He wanted to see a disinterested third party, namely Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, involved.
“If we were to have a third-party, it may cost Liberty County,” Booth said. “It won’t cost anything if just EPD does it.”
“Somebody needs to check your work,” protested Michael Gatch of the Isle of Wight.
Dr. Dana Savage from Skidaway Institute took the mic after Booth, explaining how EPD’s model wrongly assumes water will neatly go in and out a definite creek.
But some spillage will go in the entire marsh and a three-dimensional modeling system is really needed.
“You can’t run a model without accurate validations,” Savage said. “Your study is conducted at slack tide to validate…the overall approach is useful background, but is not sufficient to make the assumption you’re hoping to make.”
Booth said EPD will conduct an extensive study, but needs certain conditions.
“I need it to get hot and I need it to not rain under critical conditions,” she explained. “If I go out there and don’t get the information I need, they cannot go forward until I get a proper study.”
She wants to begin in late July or August and conduct the study for roughly two months.
Opponents said that is not enough time. Many still contested the concept of discharge into saltwater, saying the treated fresh water should be used on land.
LCDA officials have said the plan calls for some land use, such as irrigating landscaping in Tradeport, and that the permit is for discharge into the river when too much treated wastewater is available.
And the concept of sewage treatment in the area did have supporters.
“This membrane system they’re using is state of the art,” Bob Sutherland, Bryan County engineer, said of the LCDA plan. “The thing of it is, there is absolutely no reason that you can’t discharge all this on the land.”
“When you have another option that’s not endangering the environment, common sense would tell you we need to do it,” agreed Steffan Oxenrider of Bryan County. “It’s really a travesty. I can’t fathom how it’s gone this far.”
“We’ve got to have some trust in the state of Georgia and the department that they represent,” said Mayor Don Emmons, closing out the hearing.
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