Category Archives: EPA

Army Corps resumes oversight; miners have to reapply for strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp

Hahira, GA, June 5, 2022 — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has reversed its October 2022 abdication of oversight over the proposed titanium strip mine site too near the Okefenokee Swamp. That puts Twin Pines Minerals back to re-applying for a USACE permit, in addition to its permit applications to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD).

[Okefenokee Swamp, Mine site, Ossoff, Connor]
Okefenokee Swamp, Mine site, Ossoff, Connor

This Friday, Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, issued a memorandum revoking the previous decision by USACE that said there were no Waters of the U.S. related to the proposed mine site. He said the Muscogee Creek Nation had not been properly consulted, despite their request for such consultation. Twin Pines Minerals must resubmit an application if they still want to mine there.

“The Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource. It is a wildlife refuge that must be protected,” said U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, May 6, 2021. https://wwals.net/?p=55536

“Thanks to Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff for Continue reading

Army Corps resumes jurisdiction over proposed strip mine site near Okefenokee Swamp 2022-06-03

Update 2022-06-05: WWALS Press Release, Army Corps resumes oversight; miners have to reapply for strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has reversed its October 2022 abdication of oversight over the proposed titanium strip mine site too near the Okefenokee Swamp. That puts Twin Pines Minerals back to re-applying for a USACE permit, in addition to its permit applications to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD).

[Michael Connor. Photo: Indianz.com 2022-02-14--indianz-michael-connor]
Michael Connor. Photo: Indianz.com 2022-02-14

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Georgia Okefenokee protection bill HB 1289 filed on Okefenokee Swamp Day 2022-02-08

On newly-proclaimed Okefenokee Swamp Day, a bipartisan bill to ban mining on Trail Ridge by the Okefenokee Swamp appeared in the Georgia legislature: HB 1289.

[Bill, Proclamation, Trail Ridge]
Bill, Proclamation, Trail Ridge

What You Can Do

You can ask Georgia Governor Kemp to get the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) to deny the permit request from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, for a titanium dioxide strip mine within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. Or ask your city or county government to pass a resolution supporting the Swamp and opposing the mine, as half a dozen have already done.

Or write directly to GA-EPD: TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov

Or use this convenient Georgia Water Coalition action alert form to ask your statehouse delegation to pass HB 1289 and to ask GA-EPD to deny the permits.

Why

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Groundwater considered important: WWALS to EPA 2022-02-07

WWALS sent EPA some comments on groundwater, which is very important here above the Floridan Aquifer in south Georgia and north Florida.

WWALS also signed on to comments by Waterkeeper Alliance and SELC, but SELC wrote almost nothing about groundwater, and there was more to say than was in the WKA comments. Those other comments are on the WWALS website.

The WWALS comments should appear on regulations.gov, Docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2021-0602, with Comment Tracking Number kzd-8bdc-p6xf, after EPA finishes reviewing it. Here they are in PDF and inline below.

[Dead River Sink, Alapaha River Rise, WWALS Letter to EPA]
Dead River Sink, Alapaha River Rise, WWALS Letter to EPA

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Report chemical constituents for forensic PFAS source identification –WWALS to U.S. EPA 2021-09-27

We requested much more labeling of chemical constituents of PFAS “forever chemicals”, to enable tracking PFAS contamination to its sources, when U.S. EPA held a public comment period about a PFAS rule.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution brought this problem to our attention back in 2018, due to PFAS contamination from all three Air Force bases in Georgia, plus it turns out the Florida Fire College in Ocala. There are probably many more sources, including biosolids dried out from human wastes and used as fertilizer.

[Map, Letter]
Map, Letter

WWALS letter to EPA

See also the PDF.

The WWALS letter references a St. Johns Riverkeeper letter, co-signed by Waterkeepers Florida (including Suwannee Riverkeeper). PDF. Continue reading

Video: Titanium strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp; Suwannee Riverkeeper on Scott James Radio 2021-10-18

That titanium strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp is still in permitting, as Scott James and I discussed on his radio show Monday morning; here’s video. You can help stop that mine.

There’s serious doubt about the legitimacy of the decision last October by the Army Corps of Engineers to abdicate responsibility, since a District Court revoked last year’s EPA decision that the Corps used to decide. Meanwhile, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) has five permit applications from those Alabama coal miners, Twin Pines Minerals LLC. For details, see Mining moratorium: NWPR WOTUS and Army Corps on Okefenokee mine site –WWALS to EPD 2021-09-27.

[Strip mine discussion and location]
Strip mine discussion and location

You can ask GA-EPD for a moratorium on all mining, until the effects of that District Court decision get sorted out, or to deny the permits for that mine, or at the very least to examine the permits very thoroughly and produce the equivalent of the Environmental Impact Statement that the Corps should be working on.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

And don’t forget the WWALS Boomerang paddle race tomorrow morning, Saturday, October 23, 2021, from Georgia into Florida and back!
https://wwals.net/pictures/2021-10-23–boomerang/

Here’s WWALS video of that radio discussion: Continue reading

Restore pre-2015 Waters of the U.S. –Waterkeeper Alliance to U.S. EPA 2021-09-03

Suwannee Riverkeeper signed on to this Waterkeeper Alliance request for EPA to protect both surface and groundwater.

It includes a mention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) abdication of oversight over the proposed titanium strip mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

[Restore WOTUS, mine too near Okefenokee Swamp, groundwater recharge]
Restore WOTUS, mine too near Okefenokee Swamp, groundwater recharge

That USACE decision was based on the EPA and USACE 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (“NWPR”) redefining jurisdictional “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). On August 30, a U.S. District Court vacated the NWPR. On September 3, Waterkeeper Alliance these lengthy comments on EPA’s WOTUS rulemaking.

Also on September 3, EPA announced that EPA and USACE have halted implementation of NWPR and will be applying the pre-2015 WOTUS definition, which was one of Waterkeeper letter’s requests.

Meanwhile, you can ask the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) to reject the five permit applications from Twin Pines Minerals for that strip mine, or at least to thoroughly study with independent review potential effects of that mine on the Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee River, and the Floridan Aquifer.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

Update 2021-09-11: This is what the Waterkeeper Alliance letter says about the Okefenokee Swamp and the threatening strip mine:

Additionally, Alabama-based mining company Twin Pines has proposed a heavy mineral sand strip mine between the St. Mary’s River and Okefenokee Swamp, one of the largest and most celebrated wetlands in the country, and home to both a National Wildlife Refuge and a National Wilderness Area.140 The proposed mine would be 50-feet deep on average and would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands and streams that are critical to the St. Marys River and Okefenokee’s diverse ecosystems, threatening the hydrology of the swamp. Recently, the Corps determined that nearly 400 acres of previously jurisdictional wetlands near the Refuge are now unprotected by the Clean Water Act, allowing the mining company to begin mining without any involvement by the agency.141 For reasons that are unclear, the Corps did not discuss the streams at the site, which appear to be, but not are not being treated as, jurisdictional waters under the CWA.142 This decision has important implications for the initial part of the mine as well as the longer-term expansion of the mine to more than 8,000 acres near the Refuge.

140 St. Marys Riverkeeper and Suwannee Riverkeeper work to protect waters that are impacted by this decision.

141 Corps Approved Jurisdictional Determination, ORM Number: SAS-2018-00554 (Oct. 14, 2020) (Attachment 11).

142 National Wetlands Inventory Map of the Twin Pines Mine Site Area, available at: https://www fws.gov/wetlands/data/Mapper html (Attachment 12).

[Multiple Streams and Wetlands, including Wetlands Intersecting Streams]
Multiple Streams and Wetlands, including Wetlands Intersecting Streams
PDF

The entire Waterkeeper comment letter is on the WWALS website, along with its exhibits: Continue reading

Earth Day Rivers Alive Cleanup: Joree Millpond, Withlacoochee River 2021-04-17

Pick from a pair of floating Georgia Rivers Alive cleanups for Earth Day, and bring your boat!

Gretchen Quarterman will lead a floating cleanup on Joree Millpond in Valdosta, Georgia, starting at 913 Millpond Road (PDF flyer for Joree Millpond). You can return whenever you want to, but we expect this boating cleanup to last about two hours. If you have a jon boat and are willing to take a volunteer onto the pond to remove litter, please contact either Gretchen Quarterman (229-834-1945) or Austin Fiveash (229-563-6262). You can also participate in your kayak or canoe. Volunteers will remove litter from along the edge of the pond and from near the spillway. The City of Valdosta is providing a large trash receptacle at the site, thanks to Valdosta Stormwater Manager Angela Bray.

Bobby McKenzie will lead a paddle cleanup from Sugar Creek behind the Salty Snapper off of Gornto Road, down the Withlacoochee River, and a short hop up the Little River to Troupville Boat Ramp. That’s less than 4 river miles, and even with stops for trash collection should take less than three hours. We will leave the bagged trash at that destination, where Lowndes County Public Works will pick it up Monday.

When: Gather 9 AM, launch 9:30 AM, end 12:30 PM, Saturday, April 17, 2021

Millpond put in: 913 Millpond Road, Valdosta, GA, Take Country Club Drive to Mill Pond Road. Turn right and 913 is last house on left before right-only exit onto Jerry Jones Road.
Drop your boat at the water, then park near the street.
Millpond GPS: 30.867375, -83.309558

River paddle put in: The Salty Snapper parking lot, 1405 Gornto Road, Valdosta, GA.
Go to the back of the parking lot to drop off your boat at Sugar Creek.
Sugar Creek GPS: 30.861785, -83.318793

River Paddle Take Out: Troupville Boat Ramp, 9664 Valdosta Hwy, Valdosta, GA 31602. Go west on St. Augustine Road across I-75 (exit 18) and cross the Withlacoochee River. At the light for Val Tech Road, turn left, which takes you down to the boat ramp.
Troupville Boat Ramp GPS: 30.851842, -83.346536.

Safety: All volunteers must sign a WWALS liability release, which makes WWALS insurance cover them, and must wear a life jacket at all times while in boats.

Bring: the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, snaks, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags, and good boots.

Free: This outing is free to everyone, because it is a cleanup.

We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/#join

Event: facebook, meetup

[Joree Millpond, trash, Withlacoochee River]
Joree Millpond, trash, Withlacoochee River
Photos: Russell Allen McBride.

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Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp

To send your comments to Georgia officials, follow this link:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/help-suwannee-riverkeeper-save-okefenokee-swamp/

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

Julia Widmann, Waterkeeper Alliance, March 18, 2021, Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp,

Today, you can take action to help Suwannee Riverkeeper protect Okefenokee Swamp and the surrounding community in Southern Georgia and northern Florida from the risk of dangerous mining pollution.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is home to the beloved blackwater Okefenokee Swamp, a Wetland of International Importance and a proposed World Heritage Site. Okefenokee Swamp is an ecologically diverse wetland, loved by boaters, fishers, and birders, as well as alligators and blue herons, and hunters on nearby property. It’s an important tourist attraction for members of the public all across the country and provides great economic benefits to the local area. Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman has helped lead the way in protecting this special place.

In 2019, Twin Pines Minerals LLC, an Alabama-based company, first proposed a titanium mine beside the swamp. Twin Pines’ proposed mine poses dangerous risks Continue reading

Petition to EPA: protect from radioactive phosphogypsum stacks

Many groups in many states yesterday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve federal oversight of radioactive waste and wastewater from phosphogypsum stacks.

“WWALS opposes expansion of the decades-old moonscape of a phosphate mine in Hamilton County, and another proposed in Union and Bradford Counties,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper. “These mines not only suck up massive amounts of water that reduce spring and river flows, they feed ever-growing phosphogypsum stacks with radioactive waste.”

PCS Phosphate Mine, 2016-10-22, WWALS Southwings flight
PCS Phosphate Mine 2016-10-22, Southwings flight for WWALS, pictures by Jim Tatum, https://wwals.net/?p=32043


For Immediate Release, February 8, 2021 Continue reading