More wastewater sludge should not be applied on Jefferson County land, speakers said at a meeting Monday night at the courthouse in Louisville.
The public meeting was conducted by representatives from the Columbia County Water and Sewer Department as part of the requirement by Georgia Environmental Protection Division before a land application permit can be filed to apply sludge in west central Jefferson County.
Local organizations such as Friends of the Ogeechee, or FROG, and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce were a part of the nearly 70 people present from Jefferson, Burke and Warren counties.
Speakers said they opposed the introduction of sludge as a fertilizer substitute on grass fields on Hudson Grassing Company's Horseshoe Road property.
Representing Columbia County at the meeting were Columbia County Wastewater Manager Richard Hutcheson; Columbia County Director of Water and Sewage Bill Clayton; Stevenson and Palmer Engineering's Tom Wiedmeier; and Hudson Grassing Company co-owner Richard Hudson.
Columbia County is looking to dispose of sludge from
its wastewater plants.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Wiedmeier opened the meeting by explaining Columbia County's rationale for acquiring a site to land-apply sludge from its three wastewater treatment plants. He said Columbia's aim was to find a solution for the 1,200 dry tons of sewage sludge produced annually by its Reed Creek, Crawford Creek and Little River wastewater treatment plants.
He said Hudson had provided the best proposal to dispose of Columbia's sludge in the safest and most cost-effective manner.
Wiedmeier told residents that the land application of two fields, comprising approximately 270 acres, would conform to all state and federal standards. He opened the meeting for public questions and comments after explaining the permit process.
FROG President John Lewis cited state law prohibiting the introduction of sludge over a significant aquifer recharge area.
Lewis said U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Atlas Map 18 showed that the proposed permit site sits atop a portion of the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies much of south Georgia and northern Florida with drinking water. The Ogeechee River, Georgia's only remaining free-flowing river, and its tributaries are vital to the aquifer system and many animal species, he said. Other FROG members advised Columbia County representatives that 1,000 petition signatures opposing sludge had been secured from Jefferson County residents and that more would be forthcoming. Copies of the petitions would be forwarded to EPD, they said.
Louisville resident Gail Mole spoke on behalf of her children and grandchildren, opposing sludge because of what she described as significant health risks and the desire to keep Jefferson County free from outside pollutants.
"We want to keep our county beautiful," Mole said. "We don't want anybody else's garbage, and we don't want anybody else's sludge."
Though they have not taken an official position, several members of the Jefferson County Commission have voiced their opposition to the proposed permit.
Columbia County will continue with the process by applying to the EPD for a permit. When the permit application is received, the EPD will process the application and initiate a 30-day public comment period to determine if public opposition exists, according to Rachel Cochran, with the EPD's Water Protection Branch in Atlanta. The EPD will conduct a public hearing if the agency determines that reasonable opposition to land-application of sludge exists.
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