EPD: Actually, About That PFOA Testing…

2 02 2009

John Sepulvado | GPB

For ten months, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division publicly said it was testing Northwest Georgia drinking water for a likely carcinogenic chemical. But now, the EPD says it never tested for PFOA in drinking water intakes.

The revelation comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a drinking water advisory for PFOA.

The chemical is found in high amounts in the Conasauga River, a source of drinking water for Northwest Georgia, including Rome. After a series of critical media stories were aired and published, the EPD announced it would test drinking water intakes for the compound. And for the past ten months, officials confirmed testing would take place.

Now, the project manager, Jeremy Smith, tells GPB there has been “a mix-up,” and that another EPD official misspoke. No further explanation was given. The EPD has no plans to test the drinking water.

The agency is still testing fish pulled from the river for PFOA, and those results are expected by spring.

Georgia Power: Nuclear critics’ data is flawed

28 01 2009


MARGARET NEWKIRK | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Power fired back at critics this week, saying dire warnings about the cost of its proposal to collect fees upfront for nuclear power expansion were mistaken.

In testimony filed with the state Public Service Commission late Monday, the utility said critics including the PSC’s public advocacy staff had mixed accounting apples and oranges to come up with their estimates. Those critics will have an opportunity to cross-examine the company in two weeks.

The company also blasted a cost-control mechanism proposed by the state PSC staff.

Under that plan, the PSC could roll back Georgia Power’s allowed return on its $6.4 billion nuclear investment if the construction project ran too far over budget.

Georgia Power said no dice.

“We must start by emphatically stating that we cannot and will not agree to the staff’s proposed ‘incentive’ plan,” the company said in the testimony.

“We will not accept a certificate that includes those regulatory conditions,” it said.

The company said its business depends on offering low rates, which is cost-control incentive enough.

Georgia Power’s rebuttal came on the eve of a state Senate committee hearing about a bill that would give the company the early funding it wants, bypassing the PSC.

The Senate Regulated Industry and Utility Committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 31 Wednesday afternoon.

Continue Reading Here.

Decatur PFOA Find Could Lead to Regulations

22 01 2009

GPB News

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials are investigating how record amounts of PFOA and other Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) turned up in Decatur, Alabama sludge.

The investigation could eventually lead to regulated PFOA standards in sewage treatment, officials say, although much more data and studies would need to be completed before making such a determination. Already, the high levels in Decatur prompted an EPA drinking water advisory for PFOA and PFOS.

The question investigators have is whether Decatur is a unique case.

PFOA is classified by the EPA as a “likely carcinogen,” and numerous studies have linked it to various cancers. It is often described as a byproduct of making stain resistant carpet, and an ingredient in manufacturing non-stick surfaces such as Teflon.

Any new standards could impact a wastewater treatment plant in Whitfield County operated by Dalton Utilities that releases PFOA and other PFCs that eventually end up in the Conasauga River, a source of drinking water for several Northwest Georgia Communities.

Some samples gathered by the EPA in the Conasauga’s surface water have shown 12.5 times the advisable amount for drinking water.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division tested drinking water and fish tissue along the Conasaugua for PFOA and PFCs, but are still evaluating the results from that summer survey.

Dalton Utilities says they need more guidance from permitting authorities, and will not change operations until then.

In an effort to find the sources of PFOA in Decatur, EPA officials have requested information from fourteen companies with Alabama operations, including 3M, Japanese based chemical manufacturer Daikin, and Toray Flurofibers. According to EPA officials, all three chemical companies have been cooperative and are not suspected of any wrongdoing or law violations.

The EPA is also looking into privately held Alabama waste company, Biological Processors of Alabama, Inc, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Read on here.

UGA loses bid for bio lab

4 12 2008

The University of Georgia has apparently lost its bid for a $450 million laboratory to research biological threats posed by animals, including anthrax.

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will be constructed at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, a staffer in a congressman’s office confirmed on Wednesday.  UGA says that if it had won the research center, it would have employed as many as 1,500 construction workers, provided permanent jobs to at least 250 people and had an economic impact of $1.5 billion over 20 years. Supporters of the Georgia bid said the facility would have also significantly raised the state’s profile as home for scientific research.

Amy Kudwa, a Homeland Security department spokeswoman, said the agency would not comment on the matter until the department officially announces its selection. It’s not clear when the announcement will come, but Homeland Security’s website notes a decision is expected in early December.

The new complex will replace an existing research facility on Plum Island, a few miles off Long Island, N.Y. That location has enabled the federal government, for more than a half-century, to prevent its research on foot-and-mouth disease from accidentally infecting American livestock.

Some critics fear that moving the facility to the U.S. mainland would raise the risk of an outbreak of potentially fatal diseases among animals and humans. Federal officials insist that a new facility will be safe.

The Kansas site was identified as Homeland Security’s top choice in an environmental impact statement dated December 2008. Lanier Avant, an aide to U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said agency officials informed the congressman of the decision on Monday. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) also released a statement Wednesday hailing the decision.

Public-private partnerships from Kansas and competing bidders from Texas and Mississippi offered generous financial incentives totalling $100 million from each bidder. Georgia offered $25 million in incentives.

David Lee, UGA’s vice president of research, said, “I can’t fault (the Department of Homeland Security) for choosing the Manhattan site. I felt all along that Manhattan was probably our strongest competitor.

“I also happen to think Athens is the better site,” Lee said. “We’re disappointed. I feel the disappointment of a lot of people at the University of Athens and across the state.”

In bidding for the facility, Georgia noted that UGA has other facilities that could enhance the research. Among them are the university’s school for veterinary medicine and its animal research center.

Continue Reading Here.

Threats to Georgia’s growth

2 12 2008

BUDDY CARTER | Savannah Morning News

On Nov. 4, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States.

On Nov. 20, U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., was elected chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U. S. House of Representatives.

What do these two events have to do with Georgia’s future growth?

Some will say nothing; others will say plenty.

Over the past decade, Georgia has been one of the fastest growing states in the nation. From 2000 through 2006, Georgia’s population grew by 14.4 percent, helping to make it the ninth most populous state in the nation.

We would not have been able to grow without the natural resources necessary to support such an increase. Water and sewer capacities are prerequisites for growth in any area.

For years, the state of Georgia has been mired in a lawsuit with the states of Alabama and Florida regarding water flows in the Chattahoochee River and how much water is to be taken out of Lake Lanier in Northeast Georgia for the city of Atlanta’s drinking needs.

The tri-state water war took on national significance during the recently completed presidential campaign, when then-candidate Obama announced during a campaign stop in Florida that he would make “protecting Florida’s water resources” a priority in his administration.

The comment was quickly interpreted by incumbent U. S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and other high ranking state officials as meaning Mr. Obama favored Florida’s water needs over that of Georgia and Alabama.

A final decision on this acrimonious suit should be made in a Florida court sometime next year. For Georgia and its capital city, the ramifications are resounding. Without the ability to control its future water supply, as well as hold on to the water it already has, growth in the region will be stymied.

Meanwhile, Rep. Waxman’s ascent to the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is hailed by many as an indication of the extreme environmental policies that can be expected to come out of Washington in the coming years.

Rep. Waxman, who was viewed as a more liberal choice than the former chairman whom he ousted, is expected to work with the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress to push for environmental policy reform.

While all Georgians are concerned with protecting our precious natural resources, there is legitimate concern that environmental extremism could have a significant impact on future growth.

One such example is the Savannah harbor, home of the Georgia Ports Authority and viewed by many as the economic engine of the state. For years now, the ports have been lobbying for the deepening of the Savannah River channel to accommodate the larger ships calling on American ports.

Without this deepening, future growth of this vital economic stimulus could spell disaster to growth not only in Coastal Georgia, but to all parts of the state.

Another consideration affecting the ports in Savannah is the water quality standards set forth by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Currently, the EPD has set the total maximum daily load for dissolved oxygen for the Savannah Harbor at the same level as a mountain trout stream in North Georgia, which is generally recognized as an unattainable level.

Read on here.

Georgia growers sharing conservation ideas

2 12 2008

By Sharon Dowdy | Southeast Farm Press

Vann and Tabatha Wooten work hard to grow crops in environmentally friendly ways that conserve the resources on their farm in Hazelhurst, Ga. They are part of a program to help other farmers do the same.

ON TOP Farms near Hazelhurst, Ga., Vann and Tabatha Wooten use environmentally-friendly practices whenever possible. Now, with the help of the Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia — Ag track program, they plan to share what they are doing by offering tours of their farm. (Photo: Courtesy Adam Speir)

Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia — Ag Track works with growers like the Wootens to promote agricultural efficiency, said Adam Speir, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension ag pollution specialist.

“The program promotes the good work of Georgia farmers and producers who are using good environmental practices on their operations,” said Speir, who coordinates the program through the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The free, volunteer program is administered by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

“To date, more than 160 businesses, towns, colleges and state agencies have reduced waste, water and energy usage by participating in the program,” Speir said.

DNR’s Pollution Prevention Assistance Division also helps participating partners improve recycling and find uses for by-products, he said.

The program has four levels: Champion, bronze, silver and gold. The entry level for each participant is based on their current conservation efforts and those slated for completion in the program.

The Wootens are at the silver level, which means that they are operating under a conservation plan.

Read on here.

Flint River dam proposals revive statewide controversy

1 12 2008

| Macon.com

THOMASTON — Some days it seems like the Flint River flows backward.

Back three decades, in fact, to a time when damming the gentle Flint was a roiling controversy where it flowed through Upson County.  Those were the days when Thomaston was still in the business of clothing Americans and transporting them on B.F. Goodrich tires. Mill jobs were plentiful, and a series of three big lakes nearby seemed like icing on the cake.

In the 1970s, sculpting the landscape with mammoth engineering projects was viewed as the culmination of human achievement, and Georgia environmentalists were only starting to organize. But with the help of Mercer University students whose research showed a lack of demand for lake recreation in the area, river advocates prompted then Gov. Jimmy Carter to scuttle the dam project.

In the intervening years, Sprewell Bluff, the location for one of the big dams, became a state park. Most people thought the dam project was as long gone as the ’70s fuel shortage.

It was. But now both are back, though the reasons have changed.

Today the chief justification for Flint River dams has switched from hydroelectric power and recreation to water supply. Nonetheless, the possible economic benefits of nearby reservoirs aren’t lost on Thomaston residents, some of whom are more enthusiastic now that the local economy has been drained by factory closures.

Environmentalism has a broader appeal in Georgia today. Carter helped announce a Flint Riverkeeper advocacy organization this summer to mobilize against a revived dam project.

Republican congressmen Lynn Westmoreland and Nathan Deal sought $10 million this year in federal funding for a study of reauthorizing the Flint River dams. And this summer, the first draft of metro Atlanta’s newest water supply plan called for two dams on the Flint after 2035.

Last month, the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority released a report on the most immediate possibilities for expanding the state’s water supply. The report highlighted 16 existing reservoirs that could be expanded, including four on tributaries of the Flint River nearest Atlanta.

Brian Robinson, Westmoreland’s press secretary, said funding for studying the dam was put in the water resources bill during the last congressional session, but no action was taken. He said Westmoreland will probably request the money again.

Read on here.