Georgia adds phosphorus limits to Coosa, Chattooga

Published in Chattanooga Times Free Press 09/29/10

Georgia adds phosphorus limits to Coosa, Chattooga
Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

By: Andy Johns 

ROME, Ga. — Georgia environmental officials are ratcheting up restrictions on discharges into the Coosa and Chattooga rivers to make sure those waters meet regulations when they enter Alabama.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division recently sent letters about new restrictions on phosphorus to major industries and municipal water plants that discharge in the Chattooga River and the Coosa River below Allatoona Lake, according to Elizabeth Booth, the agency’s watershed planning and quality manager.

The industries must get the phosphorus levels in the water to 1 milligram per liter or less before their discharge permits are up for renewal, the letter states.

Booth called the letter a “heads-up” rather than an ultimatum.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, by tomorrow you need to meet this limit,’” she said.

The discharge of phosphorus, a common ingredient in fertilizers and detergents, now is not regulated on the Chattooga River or the specific portion of the Coosa River mentioned in the letter, according to Booth.

Biologists say the algae in Alabama’s Weiss Lake already has plenty of the nutrients it needs to grow except phosphorus, so when the phosphorus level jumps, algae grows much faster. Too much algae means low levels of oxygen in the water, and low levels of oxygen can hurt fish and other aquatic life.

The overall goal is to reduce the phosphorus level by 30 percent in each river, Booth said.

Georgia Environmental Protection Division personnel are planning to meet with industries along the streams to discuss the limits, she said.

“I know that there were some concerns,” she said.

Rome City Manager John Bennett, chairman of the Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Council, said the restrictions place a burden on municipalities and industries when less-easily monitored sources such as farms and runoff water from residential and commercial property may contribute just as much phosphorus.

“You’re making the point sources do all of the effort,” Bennett said during the water council meeting earlier this month.

Other members of the council noted at the meeting the difficulties municipal plants could have in reducing phosphorus because the wastewater comes from individual homes and businesses, which would have to change their use fertilizers and detergents.

Encouraging the use of phosphate-free clothes detergents and offering community education programs about proper ways to apply fertilizer might help, members said.

Booth said some wastewater treatment plants already use chemical and biological techniques to reduce phosphorus. Some of the dischargers that feed into Lake Lanier already are limited to 0.13 or 0.08 milligrams of phosphorus per liter, she said.

Joe Cook, executive director of the nonprofit environmental group Coosa River Basin Initiative, said the regulation is a positive step and “something that should have been done a long time ago.” He agreed with Bennett that runoff water is a big source of the problem.

“The majority of the problem is coming from nonpoint sources: urban and suburban runoff and agriculture,” Cook said. “The question is, ‘how do you regulate non-point sources?’”

 Read on:


Document Actions