Five waterways in the region are on the Georgia Water Coalition’s “Dirty Dozen” list.
What makes this year’s list unusual is rather than identifying only the most polluted waterways in Georgia, the report also highlights the politics, policies and issues that threaten the health of rivers and wetlands.
The salvage of the overturned Golden Ray made the list because of concerns the ship’s salvage “almost assures the release of oil and other pollutants into the sound,” according to the coalition.
Cumberland Island National Seashore made the list because of a proposed spaceport on Camden County that could endanger the barrier island and surrounding wetlands.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is endangered because of changes to the Clean Water Act that could enable operators of a proposed titanium mine in Charlton County to avoid federal oversight. According to the report, the only way to stop the mine is through state leaders.
Topping the list is pollution in the Altamaha River from a chemical pulp mill in Jesup. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division is expected to issue a new pollution control permit for the facility.
“If EPD’s actions in recent years are any indication, it seems unlikely that this new permit will fix this ongoing pollution problem,” according to the coalition.
The Satilla River also made the list because of a proposed landfill in Brantley County that could contaminate well water, wetlands and the river.
Other waterways making the Dirty Dozen list include:
• Chattahoochee River from combined sewer overflows.
• Etowah River, where liquid waste causes landfills to collapse and pollution to local streams and rivers.
• Monore County, where coal ash from a Georgia Power plant is a concern.
• Screven County, where one of the largest fish kills in state history occurred.
• Juliette, where coal ash is polluting well water.
• Little Lotts Creek, where a stormwater project to support commercial development within a floodplain compromised the health of a local creek.
• Georgia’s rural communities face potential problems as a push to open the state to factory farm operations continues.
“Addressing the issues highlighted in this report through stronger enforcement of clean water laws, legislative action and sound permitting and policy decisions by state and federal agencies will ultimately lead to cleaner, healthier streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries,” the report concluded. “These actions must take place so that there will be enough clean water for current Georgians and future generations.”