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Plant better than septic tanks
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Editor, I have observed with interest the issue and debate about the wastewater treatment plant proposed for the east end of the county. I have read the letters, which have been published concerning this and I have listened to some comments on the street. All of these offer insight and raise more questions.
We need further explanation and better understanding. Please allow me to offer some thoughts and perhaps ask some more questions.
Most of the objections seem to be coming from folks who either live on the coast or work there or on the waters nearby. If no people lived or worked along the coast there would be no need for a facility such as proposed and without their presence the coast would be truly pristine. Imagine that, wouldn’t it be wonderful? Unfortunately, that scenario is not an option because the very beauty of the area draws people like a magnet from upland and inland.
They visit and desire to stay, live and work. Therein lies the problem. Some sort of treatment system is the answer.
Regardless of where a body resides, its presence presents a challenge to Mother Nature. Each time you flush a toilet or wash your hands, body waste is taken away in a stream of water and must be processed by whatever means are available. From the Great Plains and mountains to the Coastal Regions the challenge changes slightly but remains a constant element of life. Water runs downhill and the coast is at the bottom of the hill.
The closer you get to the land’s edge, the greater nature’s challenge to safely process your waste. We have a variety of scientific methods available, ranging from quite sophisticated systems to the simple septic tank and drain field. All of them have the potential for harm to the estuaries, which provide breeding grounds and nurseries for the seafood industry.
The network of tidewater streams and marshland of Georgia’s coast are unique in that we have vast areas where freshwater runoff from the land meet the saltwater from the ocean and becomes what is known as brackish water. Brackish water is neither salt nor fresh but a blend.
Before we unwittingly drained and filled our lowlands and swamps of the coastal plains, there was an abundance of brackish water. Then we had a seemingly endless supply of blue crab and our wonderful white shrimp. The crab fisherman in those times landed tons daily whereas today he hopes for hundreds of pounds.
Water released and unrestrained will flow quickly in a straight line, however, if it encounters corners or curves, it will back up and slow down. This fact of nature coupled with vast areas of marshes, islands, hammocks, sandbars, mudflats and shell banks amid many miles of creeks and rivers that twist and turn endlessly from mainland to ocean results in some of the highest tides on the Eastern Seaboard.
Indeed our tides approach eight feet and change twice daily, rising or falling approximately every six hours. Thus, you have a thoroughly mixed result and much of it will be brackish, which is beneficial to the seafood industry.
Many homes stand now where we had standing water during my childhood. Most of our natural forests have been replaced by planted pine tree farms over the past 50-60 years. Prior to that we had many springs and free flowing wells throughout the lowlands. I’m not sure, but many old timers have told me that there was a time when the stone crab was not found very far inside of the sound. Now they are as far inland as the interstate highway. I hear reports of species of fish being caught in our estuaries that were unheard of not long ago.
Just a few years back, during a lengthy drought, we witnessed a marsh grass die off in several areas of Coastal Georgia. There was much speculation as to the cause, but I don’t remember anyone declaring exactly what it was. Ultimately, the rains resumed and the marsh grass is making a comeback, thank goodness. Marsh grass adjacent to the mouths of fresh water rivers is healthier in appearance than elsewhere.
The DNR has taken water samples from Sunbury to the St. Catherines Sound for about 10 years now in support of the seafood industry. The water is overly salty and has been for quite some time. The discharge from the proposed treatment facility will help to correct that. That alone should be reason enough to welcome the completion of the project. Any available land near the coast will eventually be developed one way or another. Already there are far too many malfunctioning drain fields. Let the LCDA lead the way to better future development.

Jimmy Smith
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