Tag Archives: Environmental Protection Division

Supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp ready to stop new strip mine application by Twin Pines Minerals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, March 16, 2020 — The coalition of supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp against anything that would harm it stands ready to stop the new strip mine application, same as the old one.

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) of Birmingham, Alabama, in its new application claims its proposed titanium strip mine less than three miles from the Okefenokee Swamp would be on a “reduced mining area,” which is actually 86% of what they proposed last time. They say they want to do a “demonstration” mine.

[Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine]
Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine
PDF

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman says, “Let their foot in the door and it will be even harder to get rid of them later. TPM is under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four mines due south in north Florida. Chemours now wants a fifth Florida titanium mine on Trail Ridge. Why would we think TPM would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia? Our Okefenokee Swamp with its fishing, boating, birding, and hunting nearby, is much more important than any mine, especially since it is the headwaters of the Suwannee River and the St Marys River.”

Despite TPM’s assurances, the miners have not proven their mining would not affect the groundwater, the underlying Floridan Aquifer, surface streams, or the Okefenokee Swamp.

Their application form proposes to mine 1041.7 acres, the same size tract as in their application of last year that they retracted in early January of this year. But their actual application says “TPM now wishes to conduct a demonstration mining project for a reduced mining area of approximately 898 acres.”

86% of the original acreage is not much reduced. And how is that just a demonstration?

No doubt you will hear more about that and other problems with the miners’ application from the coalition supporting the Swamp and opposing anything that would harm it. That coalition includes a wide range of organizations, Continue reading

EPA passes the buck to GA-EPD for Valdosta raw sewage spill 2020-01-31

The EPA took weeks to write to WWALS to confirm less than what it said in the January 8, 2019 meeting in Madison, Florida:


      220 years to fix? Need better oversight --Brannan, EPA
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, still from WWALS Video, Madison, Florida, of Carol L. Kemker, Director, Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, and others.

In Georgia, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has authority for establishing procedures for how permitted utilities are to respond during a major spill event. The EPA has delegated permitting authority to the state under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program (NPDES). However, the EPA does maintain a state oversight role. After the sewage spill into the Withlacoochee, the EPA reached out to EPD to ensure the spill’s cause was properly addressed and notification procedures were followed. The EPA continues to work with EPD to reduce the possibility of future spills from Valdosta into the Withlacoochee River.

No detail was included in the EPA Region 4 letter to WWALS as to how the spill’s cause was to be addressed, or why notification procedures were the only other topic worth mentioning. EPA Region 4’s response says nothing about water quality testing, tracking procedures, alternative water supply, water well testing cost reimbursement, wildlife on land and water, underground plumes of contamination, or an educational campaign; all topics listed in the WWALS letter to which EPA is replying.

Apparently it took a week for the email I forwarded to EPA Region 4 on December 17th to get there on December 23, 2019. Then it took another month for EPA to send a paper reply letter in fancy packaging.

EPA also recommended: Continue reading

Okefenokee Swamp on GWC Dirty Dozen because Titanium Mine 2019-11-14

Announced yesterday to press across Georgia and beyond, the titanium mine near Georgia and Florida’s Okefenokee Swamp proposed by Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama made the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen (see also PDF).

You can still file a comment with the Army Corps and GA-EPD asking them to reject the mine or at least require an Environmental Impact Statement. Convenience for miners is no excuse to risk the fishing, boating, and birding in the swamp and hunting and forestry nearby.

[Closeup]
Closeup of TPM equipment on mine site from GA 94 westbound.
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, November 14, 2019

2019’s
Worst Offenses Against
GEORGIA’S WATER
OKEFENOKEE SWAMP, ST. MARYS AND SUWANNEE RIVERS

Proposed 2,400-Acre Titanium Mine Threatens Signature Landscape of Georgia

INTRODUCTION:

Twenty years ago when chemical giant DuPont proposed mining titanium dioxide ore near the Okefenokee Swamp, opposition to the plan was so strong— Continue reading

Nutrients and Cyanotoxins, FDEP Triennial Review Workshop, Tallahassee 2019-11-04

Water quality testing for nutrients and cyanotoxins were big topics at yesterday’s Public Workshop in Tallahassee. Apalachicola Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman was there, but had to leave at noon. So John S. Quarterman ended up speaking as Suwannee Riverkeeper and on behalf of Waterkeepers Florida, in Florida’s Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards.

[Apalachicola Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman]
Apalachicola Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman

The FDEP presenters made it pretty clear they preferred putting up warning signs based on clorophyl a measurements and whenever cyanobacteria blooms are sighted, as they ask DOH to do now, to waiting for lab tests to come back to confirm, as EPA Continue reading

Floridan Aquifer withdrawals affect the Okefenokee Swamp, so how could TPM’s withdrawals not? 1995-04-11

Water withdrawals from the Floridan Aquifer affect water levels and quality in the Okefenokee Swamp, a pair of researchers concluded 24 years before Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama proposed to withdraw 2.4 4.32 million gallons per day from the Aquifer for a titanium mine within a few miles of the Swamp:

Abstract. A rapid response is observed between water level fluctuations in the Okefenokee Swamp and water levels in the underlying Floridan Aquifer. A lag of approximately one month is common, and a hydraulic diffusivity of 3.83 x 10-3 m2 s-1 best matches the calculated aquifer response to the swamp water level perturbations. The magnitude of leakage between the swamp and the aquifer is uncertain because of a lack of knowledge about the specific storage coefficient in the aquitard separating the swamp and the aquifer which has not been explicitly measured. An intermediate value of specific storage within the likely range of values results in a down- ward vertical flow of 1.2 meters of water per year. This induced recharge can significantly alter the natural water balance within the swamp. Such a large loss of water from the swamp may be responsible for observed pH and water level changes, and increased beavy metal accumulations in aquatic organisms in the swamp.

We cited that study[5] on page 4 of the Suwannee Riverkeeper comments to USACE about TPM, just after noting Twin Pines application to withdraw 4.32 million gallons per day (mgd) of Floridan Aquifer water much closer to the Swamp than any other permitted withdrawal. TPM’s own hydrology study in that withdrawal application shows a cone of depression in the Floridan Aquifer extending under the Swamp:

[Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days]
Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days

How could that not affect Swamp water levels and content?

As pointed out to the Corps by Okefenokee Swamp Park (OSP), any change to the water level in the Swamp would Continue reading

TTM groundwater withdrawal and use permit application to GA-EPD 2019-07-24

At 4.32 million gallons per day (mgd) monthly average, Twin Pines proposes to withdraw more Floridan Aquifer water than almost anything in the surrounding six southeast Georgia counties: 4.32 times the City of Folkston, and almost four times the notorious Nestlé withdrawal request for Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River in Florida. You can still comment to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the TPM mining application. Or to GA-EPD about this water withdrawal permit.

[4.32 mgd, 1.44 mgd from each of three wells]
4.32 mgd, 1.44 mgd from each of three wells

The only things bigger nearby are the City of St. Marys (6 mgd) and the Rayonier paper mill at Jesup (74 mgd).

For comparison, Kingsland 4, Waycross-Ware County Industrial Park 3.4, Waycross 3.16, Jesup 3, Kings Bay Submarine Base 2.9 + 1 for irrigation, Satilla Regional Water and Sewer Authority 2.2, Folkston 1.0. Even Chemours in Wayne County only wants 0.605 and Southern Ionics only 0.504 in Charlton County and another 0.504 in Pierce County.

All the permitted withdrawals in Charlton County add up to less than half what TPM wants for its titanium mine near the Okefenokee Swamp: Continue reading

GA-EPD cites Suwannee Riverkeeper and US EPA against TPM titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-09-12

GA-EPD told USACE the mining application is incomplete, asked for comments to be reopened, and cited Suwannee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network:

“Understanding that groundwater hydrologic effects associated with the Twin Pines project have been a central concern expressed by federal resource/regulatory agencies, NGOs (e.g. the Suwannee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network), and the public at large, we respectfully submit that the 404/401 permit application as submitted thus far is not complete since it lacks full information and findings regarding hydrogeologic factors on site and post-project effects to hydrogeology/groundwater. We feel that it is inappropriate and premature to close the project comment window when such notable elements of the environmental documentation for this project have not yet been made available. documentation which we at GaEPD judge to be important to our review of this project.”

[the 404/401 permit application as submitted thus far is not complete]
the 404/401 permit application as submitted thus far is not complete

This was revealed by USACE in a Public Notice of September 17, 2019. So far, this is the only update posted by the Corps since it closed comments on September 12, 2019.

It also includes comments by U.S. EPA, also saying the application is incomplete, and also cited by GA-EPD. EPA cites cumulative effects and notes numerous lacking documents and studies. EPA concludes:

“Due to the potential for the proposed Twin Pines Minerals mine to adversely affect the hydrology of the Okefenokee NWR, the EPA believes that there is the potential for this project as proposed to cause adverse effects to water quality and the life stages of aquatic life or other wildlife dependent on aquatic systems. The EPA finds that this project, as proposed, may result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national importance, as covered in Part IV. paragraph 3(a) of the August 1992 Memorandum of Agreement between the EPA and the Department of the Army regarding CWA Section 404(q).”

Apparently USACE is at least listening to the public and the public and NGOs such as Suwannee Riverkeeper.

You can still send in comments. The Corps won’t say they will read them, but they explicitly won’t say they won’t read them, so keep sending them in, and publish them on social media, as op-eds, etc. Continue reading

Valdosta sewer spill into Onemile Branch, Drexel Park 2019-08-03

Why do we get to find out in the newspaper Tuesday about a Saturday sewage spill that just “occurred”, and didn’t even show up in GA-EPD’s online Sewage Spill Reports until after the newspaper was printed and distributed? Rest assured it’s not Valdosta’s responsibility, according to Valdosta.

[Pipe under bridge by apartments]
Pipe under bridge by apartments

Katelyn Umholtz, Valdosta Daily Times, 5 August 2019, Sewer spill occurs near Drexel Park, Continue reading

Valdosta Water Quality Testing Data 2019-04-23

Fecal coliform in Onemile Branch was way above the Georgia state limit of 200, in Valdosta’s followup water quality monitoring after their spill of more than 100,000 gallons of raw sewage at Wainwright Drive, just downstream from Valdosta State University.

[2018-02-03 Wainwright Drive Onemile Branch]
2018-02-03 Wainwright Drive Onemile Branch

We know this because, in response to a Georgia Open Records Act request from WWALS, Alys Hannum of GA-EPD sent this data, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. She wrote: Continue reading

WWALS invites downstream counties to Valdosta City Council meeting 2019-01-16

Update 2019-01-22: Yes, that’s the same day as the 4PM meeting in Lake City, Florida of the Task Force of the downstream counties. Since each county only has one Task Force delegate, maybe they can send other people to the Valdosta City Council meeting. Or, if Valdosta is too far for you, maybe you’d like to go to Lake City Thursday.

WWALS Watershed Coalition board member Eileen Box invited downstream counties and residents to come speak to the Valdosta City Council this Thursday. Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman added, “Every Valdosta City Council agenda has Citizens to be Heard. They’re tired of hearing from me about sewage spills. Maybe if some of the affected parties downstream spoke to them directly they would notice. Come on up and give it a try!“

Eileen Box, WWALS Board Member, Suwannee Democrat
Photo: Jamie Wachter, Suwannee Democrat, Youtube video, 2019-01-14.

Jamie Wachter, Suwannee Democrat, January 16, 2019, ‘IT’S A SHAME’ Residents, officials share wastewater spill concerns with legislative delegation,

[Eileen] Box, who is a board member of the Suwannee Riverkeeper, said North Florida residents may need to expand the reach of their complaints. She said those concerns need to be directed at the people who can do something about it — the Valdosta City Council.

“If they start hearing from Suwannee County and Hamilton and Madison and all these counties that are affected, when you come and talk, it does have an effect, she said. That may be one little thing that we can do.”

The next Valdosta City Council meeting is this Thursday:

When: 5:30 PM, Thursday, January 24, 2019

Where: Council Chambers, 2nd Floor
Valdosta City Hall
216 East Central Avenue, Valdosta, GA 31601

What: Agenda Item 5. Citizens to be Heard Continue reading