Effingham County residents concerned over wastewater permit

EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - We are hearing from those opposed to allowing a new Effingham County business to pipe wastewater into a nearby wastewater treatment facility.

DRT America, a company specializing in distilling crude sulfate turpentine, has applied for permits to pipe treated wastewater into the Springfield sewage treatment facility.

Many at Wednesday's meeting are concerned what effect that wastewater could have on nearby Ebenezer Creek.

We heard a lot of stories from people who shared how much the creek means to them, how their business and well-being depends on preserving the health of the water-way.

Wednesday night was all about that public feedback that will be taken into consideration and responded to by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division.

"If they have suggestions that are appropriate and applicable, and often the public do, we will, we can entwine that into the permits such as more monitoring, things of that nature," said Jeffrey Larson, assistant branch chief of the EPD.

Two permits have already been drafted for DRT America to use the Springfield water treatment facility, but the EPD has the final say.

However, some residents felt their feedback doesn't even matter.

"I'm very disappointed to tell y'all that by the time we walked into the door here and had this meeting, they've already made a decision," said a woman at the public hearing.

Some were also concerned about the lack of details on the treated waste being produced and discharged near and into Ebenezer Creek.

"The way the permit is written is what makes us a little uneasy. It lists possible discharge chemicals, and it lists what they know will be present, what is shown to not be present. But it's not clear what is definitely going to be coming out," said Jacob Oblander, the outreach coordinator for the Savannah Riverkeeper.

While the EPD does hold the power to grant or deny the permits, local government also has a say in whether or not DRT America can use their water treatment facility.

"It's a local decision on whether or not the city wants to accept DRT America's waste. I don't make those recommendations. I write permits that are defensible and meet rules and regulations for the state, and the local and federal prohibitions are also entwined into our review," said Larson.

The crowd petitioned to have the written feedback deadline, which ends next Monday, extended for another 30 days. No word on if that will be granted or not.

Please bring this notice to the attention of interested persons.

I did ask DRT America's President, who was at the meeting, for a comment. He declined.

There are special conditions with the pretreatment permit.

DRT cannot discharge substances in amounts, concentrations or combinations which interfere with Springfield's plant operation, cause municipal sludge contamination or cause pass-through of pollutants resulting in toxicity to Ebenezer Creek aquatic life.

Written comments should be received by close of business on Monday, May 22, 2017 via e-mail at EPDcomments@dnr.state.ga.us. Please be sure to include the words "NPDES Permit Issuance - DRT America, LLC" in the subject line to ensure that your comments will be forwarded to the correct staff.

The permit application, draft permit, comments received, and other information are available for review at 2 MLK Jr. Drive, Suite 1152E, Atlanta, GA 30334, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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