Nearly 50 years ago, a popular movie told of a group of jailed World War II American soldiers who were released with a caveat — embark on a farfetched mission to kill Nazi’s and get some time off their sentences, if they live through it.
Even more than the film, the title often surfaces: The Georgia Water Coalition has announced a real “Dirty Dozen,” — highlighting 12 environmental threats in the state to the health of people, other living creatures and the quality of air, water and soil.
Three are connected to the south Georgia coast, including a proposed spaceport in Camden County and oil exploration off the coast from Savannah to Brunswick. Yet by far, the greatest and most immediate concern in south coastal Georgia is the issue of coal ash disposal by Republic Services at the Broadhurst landfill in Jesup.
The impact of the program would go far beyond Wayne County. On Wednesday, Peggy Riggins of No Ash at All, expressed her concerns to media outlets. She described how Republic Services has known about pollutants at the site for the past five years.
The company did report the finding to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division. Ironically, though, the information reached public scrutiny only after Republic sought a permit for a rail spur, which if approved, will pave the way for up to 10,000 tons of coal ash every day coming to lined pit at the site. Just how long the pit liners to protect from contaminants seeping into the soil will last is up for some debate. Some say they last a few decades, others say 1,000 years.
Last June, a Republic Services spokesman said the company is following all government regulations and that the landfill is designed and managed safely. That may be true, but the addition of more than 2 million tons of ash over the course of a year would bring the risk of incalculable environmental damage. As Riggins put it, it’s a matter of when the Broadhurst liners leak, not if.
“What lies beneath is porous ground above the Floridan aquifer that supplies drinking water for 10 million people in South Georgia and North Florida. The landfill is surrounded by wetlands and contains the Penholloway Creek, which flows into the amazing Altamaha River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean on the treasured Georgia coast,” she said.
Three months ago, The News noted that Jimmy Carter is recognized more for his humanitarian efforts than for his four years as president. While most of his work is directed at national and even worldwide projects, Carter readily agreed to take a role in the coal ash controversy.
He sent a hand-written letter to Bill Gates, the co-founder and owner of Microsoft and also a part-owner of Republic Services. In citing his opposition to the project, Carter expressed his concern that the toxic coal ash “will adversely impact some favorite streams of mine, where my father took me fishing many years ago.”
That’s a modest, but profound message that should resonate with all of us in south Georgia. Coal ash disposal sites have no place near our streams or rivers.