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Effingham residents protest wastewater plan

Concerned and informed members of the community attended a public hearing Wednesday night regarding the DRT America Plant in Springfield and the current status of a permit from the Environmental Protection Division which would allow the plant to release wastewater into Ebenezer Creek.

The hearing, which was held at the Effingham County Administrative Complex in Springfield, was attended by over 100 concerned members of the community, many of whom have property on or near the creek.

According to a memo released by the EPD, the purpose of the hearing was to receive comments on the draft pretreatment permit for DRT America, LLC.

The public hearing allowed attendees to sign up to give their comment(s) on the matter – each speaker was limited to a three-minute maximum amount of time.

After opening remarks were given by the EPD, the President of DRT, America, Corey Schneider, gave a short presentation on what the facility does and how they are taking the necessary measures to prevent anything bad from happening to the creek, if the permit is granted.

Once the presentation was over, the floor was turned over to the citizens for comments – 27 spoke out against the plant.

Representatives from various environmental groups, owners of private businesses that use Ebenezer Creek (canoeing and kayaking tours), local fishermen and owners of land on the creek raised their concerns on the issue.

One by one, in a calm and cool manner, the comments were given.

“The community is very concerned – it’s our heritage,” Savannah River Keeper Tonya Bonitatibus said. “I don’t want the citizens on the hook if anything goes wrong. I want to know what the chemicals in the wastewater are – we want baseline data.”

Bonitatibus added that she believes the creation of a “citizen advisory group” would be a good idea if the permit was granted.

Other speakers gave their own reasons for not allowing the permit, most of which included the concern of a fish kill and other destructive effects from the wastewater.

The plant, which was built for more than $43 million, offers a handful of employment opportunities but comes at a high cost.

With each speaker completing their statement or comment, the room erupted in applause. It was clear that the citizens of Springfield and around Ebenezer Creek are solidly not in favor of the permit being granted.

At the hearing, it was explained that there were just days remaining until the decision to grant or deny the permit would be made – on Monday, the deadline was extended.

“The EPD has extended the period for public comments on the DRT America draft permit to Friday, May 26,” Lewis Taylor said. “All written comments must be received by EPD before the close of business (5 p.m.) on Friday.”

While many have anticipated that the permit will be granted – including numerous speakers at the hearing who stated they felt the decision had already been made – the extension of the public comments is an indication that the decision may not be final yet.

More information to come as it is released regarding the permit for DRT America.