Friday, September 22, 2006

Written 9/22/06

Barber Creek Permit Request Not Likely the Last

Anyone who thinks the current request by Oconee County for a permit to dump 1 million gallons per day of treated wastewater into Barber Creek from the Rocky Branch sewage plant will be the last should read carefully the lengthy article on sewage treatment in the Sept. 21 issue of The Oconee Enterprise.

Oconee County Utility Department Director Gary Dodd is quoted as saying that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will not give the county a permit to discharge treated water into the Middle Oconee River. So the current sewage plants, including Rocky Branch, will have to be expanded in the future.

There is good reason to doubt Mr. Dodd’s assertion. In a meeting I had with Mr. Dodd on March 22, he claimed that the EPD would not grant a permit for the Apalachee River. Jeffrey Larson, Manager of the Permitting, Compliance and Enforcement Program at EPD, wrote to many of us on August 18, 2006, that EPD "has no policy or strategy for not issuing discharge permits to the Apalachee River."

The County hired Jordan Jones & Goulding to develop a Wastewater System Master Plan. JJ&G recommended phasing out the Rocky Branch and Calls Creek plants over time in favor of a plant on the larger Middle Oconee River.

Mr. Dodd is quoted in the Enterprise as saying this recommendation is not "acceptable" because JJ&G did not take into consideration that the EPD would not grant any permits for the Middle Oconee.

OK. The Enterprise often gets things wrong. The front page headline is pretty silly: "Oconee has traveled a long path from the outhouse." Even if Dodd is misquoted in places in the article, however, the thrust of what he is quoted as saying is consistent with the County’s reluctance to take seriously the advice of its consultants.

We need a hearing on these issues. We have an extension on the deadline for writing to the EPD. We need to generate more letters so we get the hearing and can learn exactly what the EPD is willing to consider in terms of permits.

The alternative is that Rocky Branch is going to be expanded from its current 0.4 MGD of discharge into a spray field to 4.0 MGD. In January 20, 2006, Mr. Dodd informed the Oconee County Board of Commissioners that the Rocky Branch facility "can be upgraded to produce as much as 4.0 MGD of reuse quality effluent without requiring additional land or encroaching on existing buffer areas."

The likelihood is that Barber Creek is going to be targeted for much more than the 1.0 MGD covered by the current permit.

Please write immediately, and send me a note saying you did so. Write a second time if you can. Or print out the letter below and get a neighbor to sign it. Send it in yourself or fax it if necessary.




Linda MacGregor, Branch Chief
Water Protection Branch
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Environmental Protection Division
4220 International Parkway, Suite 101
Atlanta, GA 30354

FAX 404 675 6247

Dear Ms. MacGregor:

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners is seeking NPDES Permit No. GA0038806 for the Rocky Branch Water Reclamation Facility on Rocky Branch Road. The permit is to provide for a discharge flow of 1.0 million gallons per day of treated wastewater to Barber Creek.

In the September 21, 2006, issue of The Oconee Enterprise, Oconee County Utility Director Gary Dodd is quoted as saying the EPD will not grant Oconee County a permit for the Middle Oconee River, making it necessary to expand its existing Calls Creek and Rocky Branch facilities.


The Middle Oconee is much larger than Barber Creek. I ask that you hold a public hearing on the pending request so that I can voice my concerns and so that I can learn how the EPD makes its decisions about which streams can handle sewage treatment plant discharge.