Current Advocacy Issues
Interbasin Transfers, Permit Monitoring, PCBs and More
Hot Button Issues
Check Out the Menu to the right to select a current CRBI advocacy issue or scroll down for general information about threats to the Upper Coosa River Basin.
When water is withdrawn from one river for municipal and industrial uses and then discharged to another river, this practice is called “interbasin transfer.” In the Coosa River Basin, this issue is of particular concern because an Etowah-to-the-Chattahoochee transfer that takes place in North Metro Atlanta has the potential to grow into our state’s largest single water transfer. This transfer threatens the health of river ecosystems in the Coosa Basin and threatens the economy of Northwest Georgia.
When first conceived in 1968, this water transfer created by the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority was only 8 million gallons a day (MGD). Since then it has grown steadily. Today, an estimated 23 MGD is removed from the Etowah and never returned. Water planners for the Metro region expect to transfer as much as 100 MGD within the next 30 years.
The impacts of such a massive transfer of water can be far reaching. Interbasin transfers fundamentally and irreversibly alter natural water flows in our rivers, can potentially harm endangered, threatened, and sensitive species that depend on specific water flows, reduce a stream’s ability to assimilate pollutants and harm downstream communities that depend on certain flows for drinking water, recreation, or industry.
CRBI works through the Georgia Water Coalition to encourage state policies that greatly restrict interbasin transfers. Currently, the state is involved in the process of creating a statewide water management plan, and interbasin transfers are among the issues that will be addressed in this plan.
Point-source Pollution Monitoring
In a partnership with the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest, CRBI monitors the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits of 26 municipal wastewater treatment facilities, 24 industrial facilities and seven land application systems. In addition, CRBI reviews permits for all facilities in the basin when these permits come up for renewal. This work enables CRBI to track point-source polluters within the basin, identify facilities that are chronic polluters and take action against the operators of these facilities.
In recent years, CRBI has stopped the dumping of indigo dye in the Chattooga River by carpet manufacturers, put an end to the improper land application of wastewater sludge in Dalton and eliminated a hot water discharge on Smith-Cabin Creek in Floyd County by Temple-Inland Paperboard & Packaging.
Though the Clean Water Act has largely eliminated major point sources of pollution, vigilance is needed to prevent pollution of our waterways from out-dated, over-burdened and improperly operated wastewater treatment facilities.
Get the Dirt Out
A program developed by the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest, Get The Dirt Out: The Construction Stormwater Project is designed to empower citizens to use the Clean Water Act to protect local waterways from sedimentation resulting from construction projects and other land clearing activities.
CRBI and five other Riverkeeper organizations in Georgia are participating in the program in which citizens are taught about the state’s Erosion and Sedimentation Act and trained to inspect construction sites in their neighborhoods for violations of this state law.
An ongoing project, CRBI holds regular citizen training workshops throughout the basin.
Stormwater runoff from construction sites is currently the leading cause of impaired waterways in Georgia. This dirt pollution literally chokes the life out of streams, destroying habitat for fish, mussels and macro invertebrates that form the beginning of the aquatic food chain. The pollution costs humans as well, increasing the cost of treating drinking water, reducing property values and impeding the recreational enjoyment of these waterways.
Waterways draining high-growth portions of the basin such as Bartow, Paulding and Cherokee counties in the Etowah basin and Whitfield and Gordon counties in the Oostanaula basin are particularly impacted by Stormwater runoff from construction sites.
For more information, contact us or visit our Calendar of Events for upcoming training events.
From 1953 until 1977, the General Electric Company used PCBs in the production of medium transformers at its Redmond Road facility in West Rome. In 1976, the federal government banned PCBs, and their use was discontinued at the GE facility in Rome. PCBs were released into the environment in several ways. PCBs contaminated GE’s facility through spills during the 24 years in which they were used. Once on the ground, rain and stormwater carried the PCBs to drainage ditches and off GE property into adjoining properties and into local streams and rivers. Landfills at the GE site containing PCBs and other hazardous waste have also contaminated groundwater. An unknown number of GE employees used PCBs at their homes as a termite deterrent, dust suppressant and wood treatment. And, an undetermined number of residents used PCB-contaminated sludge from Rome’s wastewater treatment plant as fertilizer for gardens and farms.
Today, the extent of PCB contamination in the area is still not fully known, but PCBs continue to be found in fishes of the Coosa River Basin, resulting in fish consumption advisories for most rivers and streams in the area.
GE is working with Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division to develop clean up plans for various contaminated property at the GE facility and at off site locations. The clean up is expected to take decades.
CRBI continues to monitor GE’s clean up efforts and advocates for clean up alternatives that protect ground and surface water, allow for the most rapid redevelopment of restored property and protect public health.
For more on PCB Contamination in Rome, see our 12-page investigation published in March 2003:
Through legal action, CRBI and other environmental organizations forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to uphold the Clean Water Act by requiring Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) on impaired waterways throughout the state. Required by the Clean Water Act, EPD had failed to develop clean up plans, or TMDLs, for these waterways. Thus, in recent years, the state has been involved in the process of developing clean up plans for waterways in all of Georgia’s 14 major river basins, and CRBI has been closely following this process. EPD has since developed TMDLs for all of the Coosa River Basin with the exception of a 15-mile stretch of the river from Ga. 100 in Floyd County to the Alabama state line.
In 2004 EPD threw out the established TMDL for this part of the river due to inaccurate data, differences in modeling standards, and inadequacies in the original TMDL in regards to certain water quality criteria. As a result, during 2005 and 2006 the agency must collect water monitoring data, which will be used to establish a final TMDL.
The TMDL for Ga. 100 to the state line is important because it could affect water users such as the City of Rome, Temple-Inland, Georgia Power Company’s Plant Hammond, and downstream water users in Alabama. A strict TMDL for this portion of the Coosa could mean large industries such as Inland will have to greatly reduce their pollution or risk closing during some months.
Currently, CRBI is conducting extensive water quality research on this stretch of river, collecting data at 10 different sites along the river to assist EPD in developing a TMDL that is protective of water quality.
A final TMDL for this section of river is expected by 2009.
In April 2005, CRBI joined Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Altamaha Riverkeeper in appealing Georgia’s new requirements for controlling pollution in stormwater runoff from more than 3,500 industrial facilities across the state, ranging from poultry plants and feedlots to chemical facilities and power plants to landfills and junkyards.
The appeal, filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), states that the Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) newly issued “general stromwater permit” fails to protect human health, violates the Clean Water Act and is largely unenforceable.
The permit regulates how industries manage and monitor stormwater runoff from their facilities. Stormwater is pollution that washes off the surface of the land during rain events. At industrial facilities, this runoff can carry mercury, arsenic and other chemical contaminants to nearby streams. At facilities that process and handle animal or human waste such as chicken processing plants or landfills, stormwater can also carry dangerous pathogens that threaten human health.
The previous general stormwater permit expired in 2003 after which EPD informally convened an ad hoc “stakeholders” group composed mostly of industry representatives, but also including environmental organizations and regulators, in an effort to reach consensus on disputed issues for the new permit. Prior to issuing the final permit in March, however, the agency changed key sections in favor of industry.
Problems with the new permit are numerous. For instance, if a stream receiving the stormwater is polluted with fecal coliform (an indicator of high levels of dangerous pathogens), industries are exempt from testing for the contaminant in their stormwater. In 2002, Georgia’s list of impaired waters included 248 stream segments that exceeded health standards for fecal coliform, many of them downstream from poultry processing plants, sewage land application systems, and other sources of bacteria covered by this permit.
Further, the new general permit lacks strong enforcement mechanisms and provides inadequate public access to information about what is going into the state’s waters. Industries are not required to submit their monitoring data or their pollution prevention plans to the state, making oversight by the state or the public virtually impossible.