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The governor's greatest gift

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POSTED: May 10, 2010 2:29 p.m.
Recent decisions by the Liberty County Industrial Authority indicate that they are considering not continuing a request for the sewage treatment plant permit. The decision has little to do with the environment. It has to do with financial issues within Liberty County.
The downturn in the economy, loss of development and a shrinking revenue source has affected the entire state. If financial issues are the reason the project has been put on hold, it becomes a bitter sweet victory for the opposition. We never objected to the plant. We objected to allowing the dumping of 3.2 million gallons plus of treated sewage directly into the salt marsh. We objected to this on the grounds that a proper study had never been done and as of today still has not been done.
The nonsense we have been presented as a factual scientific study, not once but three times during this process, has not survived qualified examination.
The core problem, in my opinion, is the lack of performance of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD). It’s not the Liberty County EPD and not the Bryan County EPD. It’s the state of Georgia EPD. They, for whatever reason, appear to have failed miserably to do the right thing where the estuaries of Coastal Georgia are involved.
On close examination of the most recent study, particularly the pictures used, it appeared to me that all the pictures were of fresh water streams. There were also pictures of equipment that they did not actually have on hand for this study.
It brings the question: “How about the rest of the pictures of graphs and diagrams?” Were they, too, extracted from some random computer file and packaged as a study of the Laurel View River? Was this not part of the problem found and publicly exposed in the first study almost two years ago?
An insufficient number of yard sticks were nailed to pilings, and tide levels were measured at insufficient intervals. They then applied a sine curve to the measurements and presented the results as a viable collection of data. Data that are part of the heart and soul of measuring the ability of the salt marsh estuaries to disperse the inherent toxic soup of pharmaceuticals and God knows what else found in treated sewage.
It is a fact that, fundamentally, short-term measurements of tidal height from yardsticks are not a problem, as long as they are sampled frequently enough to capture the tidal asymmetry – whether the tide rises faster than it falls, or vice versa. The frequency of sampling approaches 15-minute intervals of time at a large number of much diversified locations.
This was not the case with the EPD study. It is not sufficient to simply apply a sine wave to the data. The resultant information will be useless.
That essentially makes the entire study useless! The yard stick fiasco is only one exercise of a number of equally improper methods used in a poorly designed and poorly executed study described as “intensive” by the program manager in Atlanta.
The governor of Georgia recently visited our coast to take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony in Effingham County and, as I understand it, a quick visit with the folks in Liberty County. He also did a little turkey hunting as a guest of Bryan County Commissioner Toby Roberts.
A very positive thing happened. Commissioner Glen Willard provided transportation in his private plane for the governor to return to Atlanta. Glen had the opportunity for a one-on-one private conversation with the governor all the way back to Atlanta.
The conversation was in fact private, but coastal residents should be very appreciative of the fact that Commissioner Willard chose to bring up the problem of the LCDA plant proposal. Glen has concerns about the way things are going with the plant. He confided in me about that part of the conversation because he needed a bit of help assimilating the material.
On April 29 in the governor’s office, Commissioner Willard placed a folder in the hands of the governor and asked him to review the contents. The governor graciously accommodated Glen and indicated that he would do just that.
There were several items in that file that, when combined, provided a reasonable summation of the problem including a map provided by Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones and a full page of scientific fact and opinion coming directly from a leading marine scientist. It was enough to give anyone pause regarding the actions of the EPD and certainly their most recent so called “intensive study.”
 Even with my eternal skepticism of it all, Commissioner Willard expressed his confidence that the governor was sincere and his promise to review the material was just that.
In the past I have made no bones about blaming the governor for the whole thing. I hope I am proven wrong about the governor. I hope that in the time the governor has left; he will put the problem on the table and start searching for a solution. I hope he realizes he will have to go outside the structure of state government to get a clear picture.
I hope the ground work is laid so that during the next administration, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its divisions, such as the Coastal Resources Division (CRD) and the EPD, is provided the capacity (money), capability (people), and freedom (absence of political intervention) to do a better job of protecting our natural resources and the environment.
History will prove such action to be the greatest gift from Gov. Sonny Perdue to the people of Georgia.

Hubbard is an environmentalist and regular guest columnist for Bryan County News.
 

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