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Public shut out of EPD meeting

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POSTED: April 1, 2010 11:55 a.m.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is holding a closed-door meeting today (Wednesday) in Savannah on the controversial $30 million wastewater treatment facility proposed by the Liberty County Development Authority.
The public isn’t invited. The press is excluded. Only a group of ‘stakeholders’ are to attend the meeting.
That’s not a good thing. Indeed, when a government entity shuts out the press, it isn’t just keeping a few reporters from doing their jobs. It is excluding the public it is supposed to serve.
In fairness, we believe the EPD does the best it can to protect the state’s natural resources given its limited manpower and funding. What’s more, the ‘stakeholders’ invited to this meeting represent not only those who support the facility, but also environmentalists who have raised concerns about the project.
We’ve also been assured no action will be taken, since the only purpose of the meeting is to share the results of an EPD study on how the wastewater plant will impact the coast. The issue became a matter of debate last year, when hundreds of Bryan and Liberty residents attended a number of public hearings or wrote the EPD to register their concerns about the project, which could pump as much as 3 million gallons of treated wastewaster into coastal waters if approved.
It is safe to say that public opinion then was largely against moving forward with the facility because of environmental concerns.  
There is no reason to believe that has changed.
Further, thanks to closed door meetings such as the one to be held today, there’s little reason to think that public trust in the process will magically grow by leaps and bounds any time soon.
Finally, it may be also worth noting that today’s meeting is closed so that those attending will feel freer to discuss the proposed project, or so we were told.
That may be so, but it is a dangerous attitude.  It implies that there are issues involved in this undertaking that cannot be discussed openly in front of the public. The LCDA wastewater treatment plant is a matter of vital importance not just to Liberty County, but to the Georgia coast and the people who live along it --- people who are as much ‘stakeholders’ in this process as any environmental activist, government official or private firm.
 

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