Winter 2002 Newsletter
Center Files Water Quality Petition with Georgia Board of Natural Resources

In early October the Center began circulating a petition stating public concern about water quality in Georgia, from a coastal perspective. Toward the end of November, the petition was sent to the Board of Natural Resources with the signatures of more than 130 Georgians, mostly coastal residents. The initiative is intended to get officials to implement new approaches using existing law to improve protection of the stateís impaired but highly valuable water and other natural resources.

In preparing the submittal to the state, Center staff wrote a memo outlining two specific actions for the Natural Resources Board members to consider adopting. First, we urged aggressive implementation of improvements in administering and enforcing the Georgia Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Act. As stated in the memo, "We [point] out that both local government staff and EPD enforcement officials seem to be either ill-informed about the program's requirements or unwilling to correct identified violations."

The second major action recommended was the use of better information and more scientific expertise in evaluating various types of environmental permits. The memo explained that this is needed because many permitting situations are too complex for the limited state enforcement staff to sufficiently analyze. Moreover, new permit applications often include hidden risks to both natural resources and existing resource users. To augment state enforcement personnel, the Center proposes the use of highly qualified staff at several research institutions around the state, like the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service.

This action could offer other benefits beyond improving the accuracy and objectivity of permitting decisions. A peer review process would undoubtedly lead to more practical research that could help answer vital questions raised by past permitting proposals. Equally important, specific requirements adopted as permit conditions could be more effectively monitored and controlled, using research expertise that is not available on the EPD staff. The financing of this new permit review activity remains an open question, but it seems likely that research funds from federal government agencies and foundations could prove to be a major source of support. The Center also strongly recommends imposing appropriate permit processing fees that would be a justifiable source to help pay for the cost of application review.

The second page of the memo described three major objectives that should be used as guidelines for implementing improved environmental enforcement measures:
  • Minimize flow disruptions in river systems created by diversions to other watersheds, construction of new reservoirs, etc.

  • Restore wetland functions and provide adequate buffers to protect water quality.

  • Consider potential impacts on all downstream users when making permit decisions by applying the precautionary principle.

    The Center is considering other actions as a follow-up to the petition. The petition may be used again to urge appropriate actions by other officials, so we encourage anyone who is concerned about our water resources to sign on. If you have any questions, please call the Center at (912) 638-3612.

    Copies of the petition and memo are available from the Center and are also posted on our website,


    are deeply troubled by the condition of our Georgia waters, as highlighted by the following indicators.

  • Only about 10% of Georgiaís waters are sampled and tested.

  • Almost two-thirds of these samples fail to meet Federal standards.

  • The amount of toxics entering Georgia waters increased by at least 83% from 1989 to 1998, according to the EPA.

  • Blue crab, shrimp, and numerous finfish species are declining in size, health, and numbers.

  • Air pollution from power plants, in violation of the Clean Air Act, includes harmful levels of mercury and sources of acid rain that pollute water resources and threaten public health.

  • There are nearly 100 fish consumption advisories in Georgia, and half of these are in coastal waters.

    BASED ON THESE FACTORS, as well as mounting threats from point and non- point source pollution, we strongly urge Georgia officials to improve protection of our water resources. We ask that you support and implement improved methods for monitoring and enforcement of existing laws under your authority and discretion.
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