Tag Archives: EPA

Request EPA to ask Florida for comment on Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554 2020-03-30

WWALS requests the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “EPA regarding permit application SAS-2018-0054 to determine that the mining activities of the subject Application may affect the quality of the waters of the state of Florida and to notify the state of Florida, the district engineer, and the applicant that Florida ‘has 60 days from receipt of EPA’s notice to determine if the proposed discharge will affect the quality of its waters so as to violate any water quality requirement in such state, to notify EPA and the district engineer in writing of its objection to permit issuance, and to request a public hearing.’

[2020-03-30--WWALS-EPA-TPM-FDEP-comment-hearing-0001]
2020-03-30–WWALS-EPA-TPM-FDEP-comment-hearing-0001

We quoted from the Rule the Army Corps says it is using in its comment period for the re-application by an Alabama company to strip mine for titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, and interchanges water with the Floridan Aquifer, all of which affects Florida.

You can also send a letter like this to the EPA, asking for comment from the state of Florida and a public hearing in Florida.

Or you can send a comment to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting a 120-day extension of their ridiculously brief comment deadline of April 14, 2020, and public hearings, like WWALS did.

Why not both?

WWALS Letter to EPA

Continue reading

Request comment deadline extension and public hearings about titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp –Suwannee Riverkeeper to Army Corps 2020-03-19

We urge everyone else to also send the Army Corps a comment letter asking for an extension of the comment deadline and for public hearings.

For more things you can do to oppose this bad mining application, see How to Comment.

[Map: TPM Mine, Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River]
Map: TPM Mine, Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River
in the WWALS map of All Public Landings in the Suwannee River Basin.
The TPM mine is marked in the right center by the highlighted crossed hammers,
due north of the line of four Chemours titanium mines in north Florida.

Below is the text of the letter WWALS just sent to the Corps as a PDF.

March 19, 2020

To: Col. Daniel Hibner, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District
Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil,
CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia 31707

Cc: Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division,
Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30334

Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Dear Colonel Hibner,

Regarding permit application SAS-2018-0054 by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, of Birmingham, Alabama, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to extend the public comment period and to hold public hearings, as detailed at the end of this letter.

Review of the current 219-page Application and the hundreds of pages of appendices is not practicable in Continue reading

More testing needed to track river pollution –Suwannee Riverkeeper in Gainesville Sun 2020-03-16

Gainesville Sun, 12:01 AM, Monday, March 16, 2020, John S. Quarterman: More testing needed to track river pollution (see also PDF),

Fecal bacterial contamination from Georgia probably reached the Gulf of Mexico about March 3, 2020, according to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD).

[Tifton to the Gulf]
Tifton to the Gulf
In the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

The good news: we know about that, because of much more water quality monitoring being done since I wrote a column about the issue last year for The Sun.

This recent testing was provoked by a spill of 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage into Sugar Creek near Valdosta, Ga., in December. With no rain, the sewage sat there for a week, and then moved down the Withlacoochee River in about three weekly globs, at least once reaching the Suwannee.

This Valentine’s Day, Valdosta exceeded our request, testing not one but Continue reading

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

Reject or EIS: Twin Pines Minerals mine near Okefenokee –U.S. Rep. Al Lawson 2020-02-13

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr, Twitter, 2PM, 14 February 2020, @RepAlLawsonJr,

I sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s plan to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. These actions could have detrimental effects on the area’s biodiversity and natural resources.

[U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE]
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE


AL LAWSON
5TH DISTRICT, FLORIDA
ASSISTANT MAJORITY WHIP
COMMITTEE ON
FINANCIAL SERVICES
COMMITTEE ON
AGRICULTURE

Congress of the United States
 
House of Representatives
 
Washington, DC 20515-0905

February 13, 2020

Col. Daniel Hibner
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Savannah District
100 W. Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, Georgia 31401

Dear Hearing Officer:

I am writing to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s application for a clean water (CWA) permit to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Osceola National Forest, and Osceola Wildlife Management Area. I urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carefully consider the significant environmental, social, and economic costs that could occur if the permit is granted. It is crucial that the Corps require an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Furthermore, the Corps should reject the permit application if it appears the mine will harm the environment.

Trail Ridge and Okefenokee NWR

If approved, the project would destroy portions of Trail Ridge, which acts as Continue reading

Baker County, FL, resident responds to Charlton County, GA, about mine proposed near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-01-14

Mark Lyons, Charlton County Herald, January 14, 2020, Letter to the Editor: Response to City of Folkston, Development Authority,

Dear Editor,

I read with curiosity the Letter to the Editor from the City Council of Folkston and the Charlton County Development Commission giving their endorsement and support of the Twin Pines mining proposal. That letter raises so many questions. Where did these two boards obtain their scientific data that the mining would not affect the swamp and the environment? Much of the information offered in their letter appears to have been spoon fed to them directly from Twin Pines. There was no mention of where they obtained the scientific data that rendered such a strong endorsement that the mining will not harm the swamp or the environment. The letter did not mention any consultants or scientist who were hired by either of these two entities to inform them there wouldn’t be any environmental damage from the mining. How many scientist sit on the city board or the development council? Did the boards hire or consult any scientist at all? What was the name of the consulting firm either the city or the development board hired to supply them the scientific data that the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Where did the boards get their scientific data that gave them proof the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Please, I would ask you to share such valuable data with the public.

Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County
Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County, on Southwings flight for Suwannee Riverkeeper, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.

How can anyone determine and say the mining will not affect the environment when Continue reading

Rivers maybe finally clean after Valdosta sewage: but Okapilco Creek and need weekly testing 2020-01-31

Update 2020-02-04: Clean Withlacoochee, Okapilco Creek (mostly), and Little River 2020-02-02.

More good news: the Withlacoochee River above the Little River Confluence tested zero (0) for E. coli on Friday, for the first time since Valdosta’s record-largest raw sewage spill. If this good news continues, eventually WWALS (and Lowndes County) will take down our warning signs at Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps.

Testing continues by WWALS volunteers and Lowndes County, Georgia. Please continue to be cautious in your interaction with the Withlacoochee until we get clean readings for a prolonged period.

But we still need to find out what is the source of the contamination Lowndes County keeps finding in Okapilco Creek downstream of US 84. Okapilco Creek demonstrates that testing after a spill is not good enough: we need ongoing, at least weekly, testing.

If you’re going to paddle, swim, or fish in one of our rivers, wouldn’t you want to know what the latest test results are? I know I would.

[Green upstream Withlacoochee]
Photo: Scotti Jay, of green water upstream from the Little River Confluence on the Withlacoochee River, December 21, 2019.
It’s back to its usual tea color now.
The entire WWALS composite testing results spreadsheet is on the WWALS website.

That January 31 Confluence result is from WWALS tester Sara Jay.

WWALS testers Suzy Hall and Conn and Trudy Cole pulled samples yesterday Continue reading

Cleaner at Okapilco and Piscola Creeks and Withlacoochee River 2020-01-29

Update 2020-02-03: Rivers maybe finally clean after Valdosta sewage: but Okapilco Creek and need weekly testing 2020-01-31

Good news: the Withlacoochee River tested clean Wednesday. Still puzzling: Okapilco Creek did not. Where is the contamination coming from? What about Valdosta? How can you help?

[Ducks with reference human]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Ducks with reference human, Josh Tison, at Piscola Creek under the Old Madison Road bridge in Brooks County, Georgia, 2020-01-29.

We have results from Lowndes County and from WWALS for January 29, 2020. Lowndes County still shows an elevated count of 378.4 cfu/100 mL E. coli on Okapilco Creek at the (old) Bray property, downstream of US 84, but upstream of Piscola Creek.

[2020-01-22 -- 2020-01-29]
2020-01-22 — 2020-01-29 testing results from Lowndes County and WWALS.
The entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of testing results is on the WWALS website.
So are the Lowndes County results.

At US 84 on Okapilco Creek I got 66, and at GA 76 farther upstream Lowndes County got 95.9. As also indicated by previous results, whatever is getting into Okapilco Creek seems to be occuring downstream of US 84.

I even tested a new site on Piscola Creek at Old Madison Road, for 100 cfu/100 mL, despite gathering water downstream of Continue reading

Florida Counties Task Force in Valdosta about sewage 2020-01-08

Update 2020-01-31: Cleaner at Okapilco and Piscola Creeks and Withlacoochee River 2020-01-29.

There was good news, but actual responsibility or accountability by Valdosta was hard to find, at the January 8, 2020, evening meeting of the Florida counties Task Force with the Valdosta City Council. It was attended by a record number of citizens from Florida and Georgia, many of whom were quite vocal. You can see it all in these WWALS videos.

The good news included stormwater infiltration into the sewer system reduced by 25%, faster remediation of manholes, and the long-awaited catch basin for the WWTP is permitted. Yes, Valdosta has battery or generator backup for its lift stations and the two Wastewater Treatment Plants.

Per incoming Mayor Scott James Matheson’s request, I repeatedly described the Mayor’s Paddle organized by WWALS, then upcoming on January 18th. It went well, and we got a lot of good press out of it. Yet not a single person from Valdosta Utilities, nor the City Manager, paddled with WWALS and the Mayor. Valdosta even refused to test the Withlacoochee River before their own Mayor paddled: “We did what we were required to do.”

The new Mayor, at this meeting one day before being inaugurated, said he had met with the city staff and was impressed, but expected to hold them accountable. Many of us look forward to that.

In response to a question by Valdosta resident Tom Potter about whether legal liability was tied to the contractor, Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber said Valdosta takes “full responsibility.” But practically in the same breath he added, “but not full financial responsibility,” passing that off to the contractor.

Even about who is on the list to be notified of a spill, Continue reading