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Plant permit appeal to be heard

POSTED: January 2, 2014 9:07 p.m.
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Craig Barrow, speaking at an EPD meeting last year about the proposed Guyton wastewater treatment plant, will have his appeal of the EPD permit of the sprayfield heard Tuesday by a state administrative judge.

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A longtime vocal critic of Guyton’s wastewater treatment plans will have another chance to state his case.


Craig Barrow, whose property in Effingham County is adjacent to where the city plans to build its treatment plant and sprayfield, has appealed the state Environmental Protection Division’s permit allowing for a land-application system of the planned sewage treatment plant’s output.


Barrow’s appeal to the state office of administrative hearings will be heard Tuesday at 3 p.m. by Judge Kristin Miller.


I hope EPD will issue such a strict permit that they can’t build it there,” Barrow said. “It shouldn’t be built there.”


State law requires an appeal must be filed within 30 days of the permit’s approval. Barrow submitted his appeal Nov. 16. The EPD granted the permit on Oct. 18. In his appeal filed with the state, Barrow and his attorney, Jon Schwartz, contend the proposed sprayfield “will lessen the aestethic, recreational, ecological and biological values of wetlands on Mr. Barrow’s property.”


“The Ogeechee River and its flood plain is one of the great natural resources of this county,” Barrow said. “To put a wastewater treatment plant next to jurisdictional wetlands is just too risky.”


Guyton has sought its own wastewater treatment plant for several years, and Barrow also has questioned the financial practicality of the city’s own plant. Guyton has been using capacity provided by Springfield in its wastewater treatment plant.


“They were going to have 80 hookups a year,” Barrow said. “I doubt they’ve had 80 since then.”


Effingham County had approached Guyton with a deal to purchase capacity in the county’s 1 million gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant, but Guyton officials have said that building their own plant would be cheaper. Barrow took issue with the city not coming to terms with the county.


“It’s ridiculous Guyton won’t work out something with the county,” he said. “The residents are having to support the county’s wastewater treatment plant. It just doesn’t make sense.”


In addressing public comments about wetlands delineation and if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had identified all jurisdictional wetlands accurately, the state EPD required the city to hire a third-party surveyor. The city also had to coordinate with the Corps to complete a new jurisdictional wetlands determination, and seven wetlands were identified and buffers must be provided.


But in evoking the May 2011 Ogeechee River disaster that wiped out 38,000 fish, Barrow cautioned what might happen with the wastewater treatment plant and its sprayfield.


“If something goes wrong, we have another environmental nightmare,” he said.


Barrow also is calling into question if the state’s water quality control act is being applied properly. The city also initially intended to treat wastewater to a reuse standard but won’t do so under its current plans, Barrow charged, and that, coupled with the soil at the proposed sprayfield could be a problem, he added. In his appeal, Barrow said the sprayfield soil is a “rapidly permeable sandy” type, meaning water goes through it quickly. A 2008 report said “wastewater must be treated to the urban reuse standards to alleviate the potential for ground water impact and reduced buffers.”


But the secondary treatment now proposed, one step less extensive than reuse standard, would produce an effluent with more nitrogen and phosphorous, the appeal claims. The city’s subsequent reports on a less than reuse standard treatment don’t resolve the problems from the 2008 report, and the proposed nutrient loading is too high to protect wetlands around the sprayfields, Barrow charges in his appeal.


Barrow also said the sprayfield would lower water quality in wetlands and other surface waters and there has been no antidegradation review for the revised land application system.


“People all along the river were very against it,” he said. “Everyone along the river is vehemently opposed.”


He also said the sprayfield includes land that is likely to flood during a 100-year flood event and he doesn’t believe the city has identified all the wetlands on the proposed site. In EPD’s responses to citizens’ concerns the sprayfields will be placed in areas that have flooded, the state said recently-updated Federal Emergency Management Agency maps show the proposed treatment ponds and sprayfields are not in the 100-year flood zone. Portions of the tract that are not permitted for a sprayfield, however, are within a 100-year flood zone.


But Barrow said there is evidence to suggest otherwise.


“When the citizens around the Ogeechee have seen the area flood and they get pictures, what more do they need?” he asked. “Where they are putting that plant, it floods all the way down to Shrimp Creek, all the way down to Highway 119. We’ve seen it. They don’t believe the citizens.”


Guyton had a bond package of $9 million approved in 2011, with $4.75 million devoted to the cost of the plant and $2 million toward a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan. Other bond proceeds went to remaining GEFA loans, past bond redemptions, a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan and debt reserve. The city bought 650 acres off Riverside Drive.


Barrow also pointed to problems in New Jersey that stemmed when Superstorm Sandy hit and wastewater treatment plants were affected.


“I’m just fortunate to be able to fight this,” he said. “Somebody’s got to.”

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