As rural economies in coastal Georgia expand, we must balance economic growth with the preservation of the natural and cultural resources that define our region.
It is important that landowners and officials not become blinded by a developer’s claims of economic benefit and lose sight of the value these resources already add to our quality of life.
That is why One Hundred Miles joins Effingham County residents as they raise their voices in opposition to DRT America, LLC (DRTA)’s plans to open a turpentine and rosin industrial facility on the blackwater wonderland of Ebenezer Creek.
Ebenezer Creek, one of Georgia’s four Wild and Scenic River Systems, is a revered destination for outdoor recreation and fishing and draws paddle enthusiasts from across the globe.
Also as one of Georgia’s original settlements, the Ebenezer watershed has rich history that has shaped the culture of coastal Georgia.
Protecting the nature and history of this creek is paramount to preserving the diverse character and uniqueness of this area.
In 2015, DRTA bought 65 acres on Industrial Boulevard and announced plans to construct and launch the company’s first turpentine and rosin refinery in the Unites States.
DRTA now seeks a permit to discharge 56,000 gallons of chemically-laden wastewater into Ebenezer Creek through the City of Springfield’s wastewater treatment facility, despite the city’s assertion that they are not prepared to treat DRTA’s polluted water and are under no obligation to do so.
This proposal is most certainly concerning. Even more concerning, however, is that DRTA chose to build $42 million-dollar facility without having the necessary operating permits in hand, without having secured a safe method of disposal for their polluted wastewater, and without having been forthcoming with information about their proposed operations.
Now they claim the community should trust the technology and accept their proposed impacts to Ebenezer Creek because of the significant investments the company has already made, despite the lack of information shared with community leaders.
The residents of Effingham County are not fooled.
On May 17, more than 100 local residents attended a public hearing to discuss the proposed facility.
During the event, impassioned citizens presented the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and DRTA with informed questions, facts, and concerns about the proposal’s likely impacts on Ebenezer Creek.
These residents saw through the irresponsible spending practices of DRTA and focused instead on the company’s biggest potential impact to the community: the degradation of Ebenezer Creek. Commenters addressed DRTA’s premature construction, location of the plant, chemicals to be released, DRTA’s relationship with the City of Springfield, the treatment of DRTA’s pollution before it is released, and necessary mitigation for damage to the creek.
As we await EPD’s decision, it is worth celebrating our community’s participation in this process.
The passion that residents brought to the hearing reflects the true value of Ebenezer Creek. Many people in Effingham County live, work, and play on the creek and have done so for generations.
These residents have every right to be concerned and deserve straightforward information, transparency, and the opportunity to protect this precious resource for future generations.
EPD must confirm what citizens of Effingham County already know: that new industry, jobs, and growth are important to our region, but not at the cost of the natural and cultural resources that drive our economy. DRTA should not be allowed to continue on the path to full-scale operation with so little thought and consideration for our community and environment. We deserve better.
Paulita Bennett-Martin is the Chief of Coastal Advocacy at One Hundred Miles, a coastal conservation organization seeking to preserve, protect and enhance Georgia’s 100-mile coast. The opinions stated above are Bennett-Martin’s and are in no way an endorsement for or against the DRTA plant by the Effingham Herald.