Rather than taking a serious look at how to better regulate aquifer storage and recovery in this state, as legislators indicated they wanted in 2016, it seems the EPD may be streamlining the permitting process.
Members of the local delegation to the General Assembly helped pass a bill that urged the environmental division of the Department of Natural Resources to consider concerns about the practice when amending state rules for it. Instead, the permitting process is on its way to becoming easier, increasing access for organizations or municipalities that may want to pump chemically treated water into underground aquifers with the hope of retrieving it for later use.
At first glance, the practice may seem like a reasonable way to ensure there is plenty of clean, usable water when it is needed in a drought. Proponents certainly see it that way.
As we see it though, aquifer storage and recovery is a dangerous proposition that could threaten the massive Floridan Aquifer, which provides clean drinking water for millions of people in Georgia, Florida, and parts of Alabama, including Glynn County.
Opponents will point out that pumping in treated surface water can lead to contaminants making their way into the aquifer. When the issue was being discussed by a study committee in 2014, they said in some cases the practice in other aquifers had produced arsenic because of chemical reactions after pumping in the water. In other cases, the water people were hopeful to store for later was simply gone when they went to recover it.
Either way, it sounds like a losing situation for folks in Coastal Georgia.
Public comments were taken on the new regulations Monday in Atlanta, even though it seems the most likely place that might be impacted by ASR is the southern half of the state. An EPD official in 2014 even mentioned to The News that aquifer storage might be a good way to alleviate concerns about a lack of water and drought in metro Atlanta, where a war over water in the Chattahoochee River has been waging between states for years.
We want our friends and family in the north part of the state to have all the clean water they need, but the safety of our own water source must also be protected.
If aquifer storage and recovery presents possible threats to the Floridan Aquifer, it is a bad deal and should be avoided.