The possible introduction of Columbia County sewage sludge on grass fields in central Jefferson County will be the subject of a public information meeting Oct. 6 at the courthouse in Louisville.
The meeting, which will be conducted by the Columbia County Water and Sewer Department and by Hudson Grassing Co. co-owner Richard Hudson, is the first step in a process of securing a land application permit from Georgia's Environmental Protection Division for property on Horseshoe Road owned by Hudson Grassing Co. The sludge would originate at Columbia County's Reed Creek, Crawford Creek and Little River wastewater treatment facilities.
Georgia EPD requires that an initial meeting be held to inform citizens of the intent to land-applied sludge.
Representing Columbia County at the 6 p.m. meeting will be Columbia County Wastewater Manager Richard Hutcheson, Columbia County Director of Water and Sewage Bill Clayton, Hudson Grassing co-owner Richard Hudson and Tom Wiedmeier of Steveson and Palmer Engineering. A portion of the meeting will be designated for residents' questions.
If Columbia County intends to continue with the process after the meeting is held, it will apply to EPD for a permit. EPD does not become involved until an application is made. The agency will process the application and initiate a 30-day public comment period to determine if public opposition exists, according to Rachel Cochran, with EPD's Water Protection Branch in Atlanta. EPD will conduct a public hearing if the agency determines that reasonable opposition to land-application exists.
The reaction of some county residents to the possibility of having another permit granted mirrors one a few years ago when Hudson Grassing applied to expand its permit to include its Horseshoe Road property. The current opposition to the new permit grew recently during an emergency meeting of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President Brad Day told Jefferson County commissioners that "sludge dumping hurts Jefferson County citizens, businesses and natural surroundings. The chamber board of directors urges the Jefferson and Columbia boards of Commissioners to oppose these dumping plans."
Day asked commissioners to take the necessary legal steps to stop sludge from coming into Jefferson County, and said the chamber opposes the land application of sludge on county lands now or in the future.
Also weighing in on the question of importing sludge from Columbia County is Friends of the Ogeechee River, a nonprofit group opposed to land application of sludge in the 10-county Upper Ogeechee River Watershed. The group issued a statement Monday opposing the use of sludge in Jefferson County, citing the potential for compromising water quality in the Ogeechee and in the Floridian aquifer that supplies drinking water for Jefferson County and parts of south Georgia and north Florida.
The group's statement cited research claiming that sewage sludge may contain pathogens, diseases and viruses. The group also cited the potential for harm to the federally protected animal species that inhabit the Ogeechee River and its tributaries in Jefferson County.
Hudson co-owner Richard Hudson said last month that his company's intention was to apply the biosolids, also known as sludge, on the Horseshoe Road property instead of fertilizer.
In a letter to Jefferson County commissioners, Hudson said he had a problem with Day asserting that sludge hurts county residents, businesses and natural surroundings since there is no scientific proof of the claim. Hudson said his business continues to be beneficial to the county rather than being a burden.
"Our company contributes significantly to the local economy," he said last month. "We spend approximately $160,000 annually with local businesses, we have invested more than $1.5 million in property on which we pay taxes, and we have purchased a total of $1.2 million in equipment from local farm equipment dealers."
Hudson told commissioners that the land application of sludge is a legal, regulated process that occurs everyday across America.
He said he had no problem with residents' opposition as long as his right to conduct business in accordance with the regulations is respected.
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