Savannah residents concerned Effingham Co. industrial project could pose a threat to drinking water

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 4:15 PM EDT
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EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - There have been several industrial projects approved in Effingham County as of late but there’s one in particular that has locals from several different counties concerned.

Around 130 acres of land off of old Augusta Road here in Effingham County has been rezoned to industrial in order to build new warehouses. However, there are citizens not just from Effingham County, but also from the City of Savannah, that are concerned the warehouses could pose a threat to drinking water all over the area.

“The drinking water source for Chatham, Effingham, some of Bryan County is on a creek called Abercorn Creek. There have been a series of warehouses and other buildings that have been permitted in the swamp surrounding this drinking water intake that are really putting it at very high risk, which is honestly pretty terrifying. That’s 400-thousand people that are drinking out of that water every single day,” Executive Director and Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said.

For those reasons, Bonitatibus and several Savannahians spoke out against the new industrial zone at the most recent Effingham County Commissioners meeting. The item still passed.

“Our board is in no way going to do anything to put our residents or any person that drinks water that is treated from the waters removed from Effingham County in danger. That’s not at all going to happen,” Effingham County 5th District Commissioner Phil Kieffer said.

Bonitatibus disagrees. She says with very little regulation over warehouses, there’s no way of monitoring what goes on on the property. And if there was an accident of some kind, she says, there would be very little time to do something about it.

“This isn’t a mile away. This is next door, so if there’s a fire on this site or the truck spills on the way to the facility of on the facility, the stuff that’s in that warehouse is in the drinking water for the City of Savannah. There is no, it’s gonna take a couple hours to turn things off. It’s next door,” Bonitatibus said.

She adds that the developer will put just a 5-foot berm between the warehouses and the new construction- which she doesn’t believe is enough of a buffer. Kieffer says any plans, however, will be reviewed by proper authorities before they’re approved.

“Everything will be designed and obviously is reviewed and approved at even the state level and corps of engineers, Department of Natural Resources. So it goes through a multitude of reviews on the design,” Kieffer said.

When asked for comment on the situation, the City of Savannah released the following statement:

“The City of Savannah remains committed to working with our partners, both public and private, to safeguard the availability of clean drinking water throughout our region of Georgia.”

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