Tag Archives: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

Help Georgia stop titanium mine threatening Okefenokee Swamp –Dirty Dozen 2020, Georgia Water Coalition 2020-11-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, November 17, 2020 — Once again, the Okefenokee Swamp features in the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen, “the worst offenses to Georgia’s water.” The Swamp and the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers and the Floridan Aquifer are still threatened by a strip mine, but this time only Georgia can stop it, with your help.

[Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site]
Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site

Contact: This Okefenokee item was submitted by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (229-242-0102, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org) and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck, (404-395-6250, rena@garivers.org).

They also recently observed the mine site that threatens our ecosystems and drinking water for private profit. [TPM mine site with ONWR on left]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, TPM mine site with ONWR on left

They met again that same weekend on the Suwannee River in the Okefenokee Swamp with forty paddlers, experiencing the fragile natural beauty that makes the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge a great economic benefit to both Georgia and Florida.

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

The entire text of the Okefenokee Dirty Dozen item is below. Also below is how you can help.

This year’s Dirty Dozen report includes the following: Continue reading

Twin Pines Minerals permit applications to GA-EPD

Here are four of the five active permit applications to GA-EPD from Twin Pines Minerals related to the proposed titanium mine far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, and interchanges water with the Floridan Aquifer, from which we all drink. Apparently there is also an air quality permit application. Since the Army Corps has abdicated oversight of this mine, you can ask the Georgia government to reject these permits.

[Page 2]
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Figure 75: Proposed Project Aquatic Feature Impact Areas Map –Twin Pines Minerals

Here is the relevant passage from GA-EPD’s responses to my open records request. I have interleaved links to where the files for each application are on the WWALS google drive.

Here is a summary of the permit applications in the GA EPD Watershed Protection Branch: Continue reading

Videos: vote for clean water 2020-11-03

From four locations on the Withlacoochee River, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter urge you to go vote today for clean water.

[US 41, NSRR, US 84, Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River]
US 41, NSRR, US 84, Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River

At US 41 (North Valdosta Road), at the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge just downstream from the notorious Sugar Creek, at US 84, downstream from GA 133 where Valdosta often sees high E. coli, and at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, downstream of Okapilco Creek with all those Brooks County dairy cows, we sampled for bacteria and DNA Friday.

Vote for people who will fully fund the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) so they can do some river sampling themselves, and watch over not only Valdosta, but also Quitman, Adel, Tifton, Rochelle, and Ashburn, all of which have spilled sewage into the Suwannee River Basin this year. Maybe then FDEP will be able to do its job, instead of trying to take more tasks from the Army Corps.

Vote for people who will protect the Okefenokee Swamp from strip mining and other threats.

Pick your most important water issue: https://wwals.net/blog/issues/. They could all use elected officials who will support clean water.

We’ve never met anyone who wants to drink dirty water. So please vote for clean water! Continue reading

Water quality sampling and vote for clean water 2020-10-30

Please vote for clean water!

Vote for clean water

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter took a moment from water quality sampling at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River to make these videos to ask everyone to vote for clean water.

Vote for people who will fully fund the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division so they can do some river sampling themselves, and watch over not only Valdosta, but also Quitman, Adel, Tifton, Rochelle, and Ashburn, all of which have spilled sewage into the Suwannee River Basin this year.

Vote for people who will protect the Okefenokee Swamp from strip mining and other threats.

We could also mention Nestlé, phosphate mines, coal ash, and many other issues.

We’ve never met anyone who wants to drink dirty water. So please vote for clean water! Continue reading

What stinks worse than a titanium mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp? Biomass plants in north Georgia

Should we assume a titanium mine started by the same people would be any better than the stinking biomass plants they started? You can ask the Georgia government to stop the mine that would be far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp. And don’t forget to vote for people who support clean air and water!

The “clean” wood-burning biomass plants in north Georgia stink so bad a chicken CAFO operator says he can smell it. So bad people working at the plant get sick with masks on. So bad local people say they were betrayed and a local government is suing. So bad it’s caused a fish kill in a nearby creek. So bad investors are suing. So bad it’s behind in its taxes.

Photo: Franklin Locality, Problem: GRP Pollution
Photo: Franklin Locality, Problem: GRP Pollution

So bad local people say no amount of jobs is worth it. One asks, “did you have anybody investigate the two companies that run that plant; had they ever had EPD/EPA violations, had they ever been sued or had formal complaints brought against them”? Well, many people investigated Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, and found TPM is under a Florida Consent Order for multiple violations just across the GA-FL line.

Yet the Charlton County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in favor of that titanium mine. Maybe they should review that decision in light of this track record of another project by the same people.

Maybe GA-EPD should take all this into account while considering TPM’s five permit applications. And then reject those applications.

You can help by asking them to do so.

And don’t forget to vote for people who will protect our waters and people.

Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald, 12 September 2015, Alabama company plans wood-burning electricity plants near Athens,

The EPD’s Air Quality Branch earlier this summer approved one of the two pollution permit applications filed by GreenFuels Holding Company of Birmingham for a 79 megawatt plant near the Franklin County town of Carnesville.

The company filed its application for a 58 megawatt plant near Colbert about two weeks ago. State officials won’t begin to evaluate it for another couple of weeks, until a 30-day window has passed when the public can make formal comments, said Eric Cornwell, the Air Quality Branch’s program manager for stationary source permitting.

GreenFuels has a policy to not comment publicly to media, said GreenFuels vice president Steven Ingle.

Yes, the same Steven Ingle who is president of Twin Pines Minerals LLC that already has equipment on its mine site within a few miles of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. But Ingle tells us that mine will be safe. Which is also what his biomass LLC told everybody.

Biomass has become the new coal, Continue reading

U.S. Army Corps abdicates at Okefenokee Swamp, but titanium miners still need Georgia permits 2020-10-19

Monday morning I heard from a mining source that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon announce that, due to federal rollback of the Waters of the U.S., the Corps no longer considers the streams next to the proposed mining site to be under Corps jurisdiction, even though they are far too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

Alligator
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, alligator in the Okefenokee Swamp

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) lost no time announcing the next day that they intended to plow ahead. Molly Samuel, WABE, 20 October 2020, Proposed Mine Near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp Gets A Major Hurdle Removed.

But TPM admits they still need five Georgia permits. So let’s try to stop those.

As we’ve been saying for a long time, please write to state and federal regulators, to the Georgia governor and the Georgia DNR board, and to state and federal elected officials. See below for how.

Also, there’s an election going on. As an IRS 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, WWALS can’t tell you what candidate or party to vote for. But we can ask you to vote for the environment.

If the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, is not protected, what is? If you live in south Georgia or north Florida, your drinking water probably comes from the Floridan Aquifer or groundwater above it, all of which can be adversely affected by strip mining or other pollution.

Please vote for the environment.

Georgians, don’t forget to vote for Amendment 1 while you’re voting.

Russ Bynum, Associated Press, 21 October 2020, Trump environmental rollback spurs mining near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp.

The Army Corps reassessed certain wetlands at Twin Pines’ request after Trump’s new clean-water rules took effect in June. The agency confirmed Tuesday that, under the rules change, the tract would no longer require a federal permit.

“This property now has Continue reading

Current Situation of Water Quality Testing, Suwannee River Basin 2020-08-02

People mostly don’t know about all the additional testing, nor the cows, nor the new Consent Order on Valdosta.

Even if you’ve been following the Withlacoochee River water quality situation, some of what has happened and has been discovered is probably not obvious. Here is an attempt to describe the current situation, many of the people and organizations involved, and some things you can do to help. See also printable PDF.

[Page 01]

August 2, 2020

To: Potential Partners in helping clean up the Withlacoochee River

Re: Current Situation of Water Quality Testing, Suwannee River Basin

Dear Potential Partner,

Trudy Cole wrote about water quality testing for WWALS:

“We do this so not just our grandchildren,
but your grandchildren have clean water to drink, fish, and swim in.

“Clean water, it’s not just important,
it is vital.”

We’ve never found anyone who wants to swim, boat, or fish in dirty water, much less drink it. Continue reading

Tens of thousands commented against a strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp

Hahira, Georgia, May 30, 2020 — From every U.S. state and beyond, tens of thousands comments poured in to the Army Corps against a permit application for a titanium strip mine far too near the unique blackwater gem of the Okefenokee Swamp. The comment period ended Thursday. You and your elected officials can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the right thing and deny this permit, or at least require an Environmental Impact Statement.

[44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map]
44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map

“With its unique ecosystem and incomparable beauty,” says Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “the Okefenokee Swamp is a national and international treasure, and the source of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. With its opportunities for boating, birding, fishing, photography, adventure, and hunting nearby attracting 600,000 visitors a year and supporting more than 700 jobs, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) provides more economic benefit to each of Georgia and Florida than any other refuge.”

The groups supporting the Swamp and opposing the mine include twenty Waterkeepers from three states, and umbrella organizations Waterkeepers Florida and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org, 229-242-0102.

See below for a longer press release from Georgia River Network about the several dozen organizations loosely associated to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from anything that might harm it, such as this strip mine for private profit for paint.


Tens of Thousands Voice Opposition Over Mine Proposed to be Located Next to the Okefenokee Swamp

Continue reading

Send your comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order –Albany Herald

In the Albany Herald, May 9, 2020, Deadline set to comment on Valdosta EPD Enforcement Order,

The Enforcement Order includes a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Fla., who was among the WWALS members who met with the city of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The rest of the article is from the WWALS press release.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

This is not the kind of black water we want:

[Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River.]
Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River. By Tim Bonvechio.

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order Continue reading

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (see also PDF)

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

Hahira, GA, May 4, 2020 — May 27th is the deadline to comment on the Enforcement Order the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) finally issued on Valdosta for sewage spills. For decades, Valdosta has spilled wastewater into the Withlacoochee River. People downstream, even on the Suwannee River all the way to the Gulf, worry about fishing, swimming, or even boating and some even say their wells are contaminated by fecal bacteria from these spills. Many had hoped that Valdosta’s big spills were over in 2016 with the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant uphill out of the flood plain, plus a Force Main with two Pump Stations. Valdosta says it has spent about $80 million on water system improvements. Yet the spills continued. The Order also reveals a massive fish kill.

[Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

“The December 2019 spill was the biggest yet, with no rain, and nothing actually broke. It was a massive failure of supervision,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Citizens and elected and appointed officials in Georgia and a dozen counties in Florida demanded something be done.”

This Enforcement Order includes the most popular request, a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, who was among the WWALS members who met with the City of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. She added, “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The Order addresses much (but not all) of what Suwannee Riverkeeper asked GA-EPD to do: https://wwals.net/?p=50979 For example, it requires the City to test water quality all the way down to the state line. One thing it does not include is any requirements for reimbursing downstream well and river testing expenses.

“It’s good to see that the EPD is FINALLY taking this issue seriously!” said Suzy Hall, WWALS Testing Committee Chair. “I can’t help but feel WWALS’ diligence in testing has been a big part of this action, and must continue regardless of any order for the City to conduct testing.”

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order will finally get the City’s attention,” said Dr. Tom Potter, WWALS Science Committee Chair and taxpayer of the City of Valdosta.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org
WWALS Watershed Coalition
850-290-2350, 229-242-0102
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632

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 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!