Are Georgia EPD Fines High Enough?

22 11 2008

by Calvin Sneed | News Channel 9

It seems that more and more raw sewage is leaking into our creeks and rivers. Even this coming Monday, the city of Fort Oglethorpe plans to manually haul off tons of raw sewage, to bypass a pumping station that it’s repairing, where nearby residents say, it’s been leaking sewage for years. The fines for violations like that in Georgia are shockingly low, which made us wonder, how low can they go? A NewsChannel 9 investigation reveals at least one conservation group that thinks, the fines in Georgia are way too low to provide much incentive to stop the pollution of our waterways..

It seems the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, whose responsible for enforcing sewage violations in the state’s creeks and rivers, has been very busy in Catoosa County. “They collected over 41-thousand dollars in fines for violations to water quality standards, just in Catoosa County this year,” says Shana Udvardy with the Georgia Conservancy, a statewide environmental watchdog group.

We know where some of those fines came from. Back in June, a NewsChannel 9 investigation discovered raw sewage flowing directly into South Chickamauga Creek, from the Morris Estate Sewage Treatment Pond. As a result of our investigation, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division leveled a one-thousand dollar fine on the pond’s owner, the city of Ringgold. Just in the past two weeks, we discovered two separate sewage leaks at a pumping station on Steele Road. The city of Fort Oglethorpe was fined TWO, one-thousand dollar penalties. Those two problem areas, just THIS year. And then, there’s the Mitchell Acres Sewage Treatment pond about a mile-and-a-half away, also owned by Fort Oglethorpe. It’s scheduled to be closed, but as of today, is still accepting raw sewage for treatment. Since 2002, there have been 11 violations of sewage pollution into West Chickamauga Creek. At 500 dollars per violation, that adds up to 55-hundred dollars in fines.

“Clearly, the fines are not enough for industries that are polluting,” says Ms. Udvardy. The Georgia Conservancy says, the E-P-D should charge a fee to each municipality that treats sewage. That fee would fund enforcement of violations. The agency says, current fines do not provide enough incentive, to make municipalities see how important it is, to protect the environment.

Making the situation worse, are budget cuts of 6 per cent, 8 per cent and 10 per cent, coming next year, to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources budget, some cuts that would come from its Environmental Protection Division. “Our agency also believes those cuts will eventually hurt enforcement of pollution violations,” Ms. Udvardy says.

The fines in Tennessee are a litte more severe. If a discharge does not reach a creek, stream or river in the Volunteer State, the minimum fine is a thousand dollars involving a minor sewage treatment system, and 25-hundred dollars for a major one.. If the discharge does reach a creek, stream or river, the minimum fine is 25-hundred dollars for a minor system, and 5-thousand dollars for a major system. Each situation is different, and even the Department of Environment and Conservation, which enforces the penalties is itself, facing cuts next year..

Ware landfill lawsuit stays alive

22 11 2008


A Superior Court judge has declined to dismiss a lawsuit that could block a Florida company from burying fly ash at Ware County’s unused Tri-County Landfill.

Judge Dwayne Gillis’s order amounts to a split decision in the lawsuit challenging the validity of a 2004 contract between Ware and Florida-based North American Metals Company, or NAMCo. The suit claimed state and county laws were violated in creating the contract.

In his order issued Thursday, Gillis, of the Waycross Judicial Circuit, dismissed five arguments made by landfill opponents in their suit but left three others to be decided in court.

In a related action, Gillis also ordered an administrative court judge to revisit his dismissal of another lawsuit, which said Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division erred when it permitted the landfill for NAMCo’s use.

In the ruling on the landfill contract, Gillis said Ware’s agreement with NAMCo arguably violates county code, which states no industrial or hazardous waste and no refuse generated outside the county can be accepted at any disposal site. Under the contract, NAMCo would bring coal ash to Ware County from Florida by rail.

Also, Gillis said the landfill could be considered a public works project, which means – as landfill opponents argue – it should have been put out for competitive bids. The competitive bidding requirement is “designed to protect the public coffers and taxpayers who are required to fill those coffers,” Gillis wrote in his decision.

He found that allowances for two five-year extensions on NAMCo’s 20-year lease could violate a state law that says counties can lease government functions to private companies for no more than 20 years.

Gillis threw out several arguments made by landfill opponents.

He ruled the NAMCo contract did not violate the 1989 special local option tax initiative, which had funded the landfill’s construction. Nor did it violate Ware’s agreement with its neighbors, Pierce and Bacon counties, both of which originally shared the landfill with Ware. The three counties had built the landfill in the mid-1990s to dispose of household waste. Since it was not economically feasible to operate the landfill after it was completed, the county “properly exercised its discretion in altering its original landfill plan,” Gillis wrote.

Read on here.

Atlantans recycle old electronics for free

22 11 2008

Cedric Brown finally parted with a trusted friend Saturday — his first computer.

It was an IBM XT, with two floppy drives, and he ran Lotus 1-2-3 on it way back in 1985, managing spreadsheets for a lighting company.  Saturday afternoon, Brown handed the archaic device over to a worker in the Green Lot at Turner Field, who tossed it onto a stack of PCs where it was shrink-wrapped and loaded into a semi-trailer.

After his machine ceased functioning, Brown said, it gathered dust in the basement as a reminder of his computing beginnings. “I just couldn’t being myself to part with this particular computer until now.”

Dozens of trailers stood by as men driving forklifts loaded them up with pallets of computer monitors, printers, console televisions and even a rather attractive “Fireball” pinball machine.

Organized by Sony and Waste Management, the one-day electronics recycling program retrieved about 230,000 pounds of abandoned gizmos that would have otherwise been bound for the garbage heap.

Electronics frequently harbor toxic metals and other pollutants that can threaten waterways and human health for years. TV monitors can contain up to eight pounds of lead, and many batteries include cadmium, said Chad Miller, of Houston-based Waste Management.

While consumers usually have to pay a fee to dispose of such items, Sony covered the cost of Saturday’s recycling, all of which will be re-processed by Marietta recycler MOLAM International Inc.

At that facility, event organizers said, the equipment will be broken into its component parts, and reused or disposed of with strict adherence to environmental protection.

The goal of Saturday’s collection was to emphasize responsible electronics recycling.

“We hope by holding events like this, that the message gets out,” Robert Benavent, an environmental engineer with Sony Electronics, said as he watched a line of cars and pickup trucks snake through the collection site.

Read on here.