Coalition names ‘dirty dozen’ water offenses

hduncan@macon.comNovember 14, 2012 

A major Georgia water advocacy group announced its “dirty dozen” list Wednesday of what it considers the worst offenses to Georgia’s water in 2012, with several Middle Georgia waterways affected.

With more than 300,000 members, the Georgia Water Coalition, which compiled the list, is a consortium of 175 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses and faith-based organizations that have been working to protect Georgia’s water since 2002.

Second on the group’s list is the Yellow River, one of the tributaries of the Ocmulgee River that flows through Macon. The group faulted the state Legislature for stripping money from a trust fund meant to clean up hazardous waste sites like one that is contaminating groundwater in the Yellow River watershed near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Downstream of Macon, another threat was identified in the Altamaha River for the second year in a row. In a news release, the water coalition maintained that the Rayonier paper mill’s wastewater continues to foul the waters of the state’s largest river.

Also for the second year, the list pinpoints the Flint River, this time because of state funding for an underground water injection experiment the coalition calls a “boondoggle.” Last year, the Flint was named for another reason: The coalition thought the state was issuing too many water permits in the parched watershed.

The No. 1 threat identified by the group is the King America Finishing Co., which caused the largest fish kill in state history in the Ogeechee River a year ago and has “still not been held accountable,” according to the coalition.

The news release about this year’s list pointed the finger at Gov. Nathan Deal, accusing his administration of “cronyism” that led to some of the policy decisions that river advocates decry.

“The $102 million that Gov. Deal directed to questionable and environmentally destructive water supply projects this year is more than three times the $30 million in state dollars invested by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority in water conservation and efficiency projects from 2006-2010,” Sally Bethea, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said in the release.

To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

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