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Chattahoochee, Flat Creek make group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list

Coalition annually names waterways and projects that may harm communities, environment

POSTED: November 13, 2013 11:10 a.m.

A Georgia Water Coalition report released Wednesday criticized Hall County’s planned Glades Reservoir and local poultry plants for endangering Georgia water and polluting the environment.

The coalition named its “Dirty Dozen” for 2013, and the annual list included the Chattahoochee River and Flat Creek, two Northeast Georgia water sources that flow into in Lake Lanier.

The Georgia Water Coalition is a group of more than 200 organizations the mission of which is to protect and care for the state’s waterways.

The planned 850-acre Glades Reservoir would pipe water from the Chattahoochee above Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lanier has been at the heart of the tri-state water wars with Florida and Alabama because it’s a crucial drinking water source for Atlanta. However, communities south of the growing metropolis complain there’s not enough water flowing downstream for residents, businesses and wildlife.

The report chastises Gov. Nathan Deal and his administration for “spending millions on reservoir schemes to circumvent federal control of the river systems” by changing the criteria of the Governor’s Water Supply Program so the state has more control directing water flows.

Georgia Environmental Finance Authority officials announced last week the state would give direct funding to the Glades project, which is expected to cost about $130 million. The Hall County application asked for slightly more than $14.5 million, but the final amount will be negotiated with GEFA and officials with the Environmental Protection Division, said GEFA spokesman Shane Hix.

Hix declined to comment on the list.

“We’re not going to bother commenting on the Georgia Water Coalition marketing materials,” he said.

Sally Bethea, executive director of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said she doesn’t think the changes to the state investment program will help resolve the dispute with the other two states that’s dragged on for decades.

“Rather, it’s going to inflame it further,” Bethea said. “I don’t think there are any assurances that these new reservoirs would be sending more water all the way downstream to the other states.”

The report slams Gainesville poultry processing plants and other local industrial companies for allowing stormwater runoff to pollute Flat Creek with fecal coliform bacteria, which can live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals.

The Environmental Protection Division 2012 list of streams that don’t support uses such as fishing shows the creek from Gainesville to Lake Lanier has had bacterial contamination impacting the fish. Companies are required by law to control and treat stormwater.

The dirty dozen list also faults EPD and the state government for not investing enough in staff and resources to monitor industrial facilities.

“This one (impaired creek) is emblematic of the fact that the state has only two people to inspect or deal with (more than) 2,000 industrial facilities around Georgia.”

Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, declined to comment specifically on the list, but said there are many poultry businesses in Gainesville that are responsible and care about the environment. The bacteria is also common in residential and urban areas where there are no chickens, he said.

“I know how (poultry companies) operate,” Giles said. “I know they take environmental stewardship, whether it’s at their processing facility or any of their other facilities, very, very seriously.”


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