Monday, March 23, 2009

Georgia Water Coalition Airs TV Ads to Raise Awareness of Threats to Well Water

On Monday, the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) began airing television commercials in Middle Georgia informing citizens about proposals to pump chemically treated sewage and river water into our groundwater. This practice (known as aquifer storage and recovery or ASR) can contaminate vital drinking water sources for many Georgians, an issue the GWC wants Georgians to be sure to know about.

The GWC is comprised of 174 groups, ranging from hunting and fishing groups, to religious organizations, environmental groups, and businesses, all working together to aggressively ensure enough clean water for current and future generations. “We are vigorously defending clean water in Georgia and making sure citizens know about the threats our water faces,” said Chandra Brown, the Ogeechee Canoochee Riverkeeper, which is a member of the Georgia Water Coalition.

Chemically treated water injected into groundwater is a threat to drinking water and poses a significant health risk to hundreds of thousands of Georgians who rely on groundwater to drink. The General Assembly twice passed a moratorium on aquifer storage and recovery to protect drinking water, which is scheduled to sunset in 2009. The Senate is now considering HB 155 which would extend the moratorium 5 more years.

The ads encourage viewers to contact Senator Ross Tolleson, from Perry, who is the Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, who will first consider the bill in the Senate.

“Senator Tolleson has the opportunity to be a real champion for protecting clean water for current and future generations. He has stepped up to the plate before, and we are counting on him now,” said Gordon Rogers, the Satilla Riverkeeper from Waynesville, GA.

Earlier this year, the GWC released poll results showing that ensuring enough clean water continues to top Georgians’ environmental concerns. Of those surveyed, 73 percent supported extending a ban on aquifer storage and recovery.

Recently, ASR has been proposed as an alternative to dispose of chemically treated sewage in Liberty County. Among the concerns are contamination by pharmaceuticals and personal care products, which are actively present in all treated sewage discharges.

“These issues are too often decided without the public knowing about it or getting involved” said April Ingle, Executive Director of the Georgia River Network. “We’re changing that.”

In response to this legislative proposal, 4 local governments on the coast have passed resolutions supporting the ban on the practice. The reasoning offered in the resolutions includes protecting their primary source of drinking water and concerns about injecting lower quality water into their high quality aquifer. The resolutions cite concerns that these risks could result in damage to the aquifer and drinking water supply with severe negative consequences for coastal Georgia's economy and environment.

The National Research Council found in 2001 that a proposal for ASR in south Florida posed significant risks to groundwater, including potentially increasing heavy metal concentrations, such as mercury. This report also found that the chemically treated surface water could contain bacteria and pathogens and contaminate groundwater. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found levels of arsenic that exceeded safe drinking water levels in areas using ASR in South Florida.

Analysis of a project in South Carolina by the U.S. Geological Survey found that less than 25% of the water pumped into an aquifer would be available to reuse. This study also found that injecting water into aquifers did not help increase groundwater levels in wells near the injection site.

These studies indicate that the use of ASR may risk contaminating drinking water with very little recovery. The Georgia Water Coalition will continue to work w/ the Georgia Legislature throughout their 2009 Legislative Session to ban pumping chemically treated water into the groundwater and keep citizens informed and engaged on the issue.

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