Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie told the Northeast Georgia Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers that he would help them understand “the fuss” over the county’s plans to put a sewer pipeline down Calls Creek.
Cindy Mitchell McGarvey, who lives on the creek and is one of the organizers of Friends of Calls Creek, was interested in sharing what Haynie had to say at the engineering group’s regular meeting on Feb. 16, so she borrowed a video camera and attended the meeting.
Haynie objected to the camera when he stood up to talk, however, saying he was hoping to have a “safe space” among the civil engineers to talk about the controversy over the county’s plans to expand its Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant and run a discharge pipeline through the neighborhoods along the creek.
Haynie went forward with his talk–and explanation of the controversy the pipeline had raised–only after the engineering group voted to ask McGarvey to turn off the camera and she complied.
The regular meeting of the Northeast Georgia Branch of the ASCE was publicized in advance, with an announcement of Haynie’s talk circulating on email lists of area engineers.
The title of the talk was “Calls Creek WRF: Why all the fuss?”
The luncheon event at Stricklands Restaurant, 4723 Atlanta Highway, near Bogart, was open to the public, with those attending asked to pay $15. Students only had to pay $5.
McGarvey paid the $15, set up the camera, and joined the group for the lunch.
I had lent her the camera, since I could not attend myself because of another commitment.
Our agreement was that she would share the video with me as well as with the members of Friends of Calls Creek, which has led opposition to the proposed pipeline.
After the lunch and a series of reports on group finances and other issues, Santosh Ghimire, ASCE Northeast Georgia Branch president, introduced Haynie.
Haynie said a few words and then noted that McGarvey was recording the session. Haynie said that “there is a threat of litigation” regarding the project.
“I was coming here hoping that this might be a ‘safe space’ for us engineers,” Haynie said. “I would respectfully ask that the camera be turned off.
“I think that’s only fair that we be able to come out and meet with our industry and not have to have that.”
McGarvey refused, saying that “it was a public meeting in a public place.”
Haynie interrupted McGarvey, saying “I’ll ask the officers for a ruling on that.”
That ultimately led to the vote by the members to ask McGarvey to turn off the camera and not to use any audio device as well.
The video of the exchange is below.
Haynie’s presentation consisted of 31 slides, which I obtained through an open records request.
|Slide Of Citizens Protesting Calls Creek Pipeline|
Haynie had used most of those slides in public presentations he had given in the last year as the discussions of the upgrade to the Calls Creek plant had progressed.
Two slides that were added focused on opposition to the sewer pipeline.
One showed people, including McGarvey’s husband, Jim, at public events wearing T-shirts stating opposition to the pipeline.
Another showed a deforested landscape with the word “Imagined” on the top.
While McGarvey was not allowed to record Haynie’s comments, she was allowed to remain and take notes.
|Slide Of Deforested Landscape|
According to those written notes, which she shared with me, Haynie said one of the reasons for the citizen response was a “mistrust of local government.”
He also said people had a mistaken impression of what the pipeline would do to the landscape.
The canopy will grow back and grassy areas will return, Haynie said, according to McGarvey’s notes.
Haynie has made similar arguments at meetings in the past.
The Board of Commissioners voted to upgrade the Calls Creek plant to 1.5 million gallons per day of capacity at its meeting on Feb. 7.
Those plans do not include construction of a sewer pipeline down Calls Creek.
Haynie told the Board he wanted to keep open the option of expanding that plant at some point in the future to 3 million gallons per day or even more, and the Board approved design components to accommodate that possible future upgrade.
The state has said that it will not allow the release of more than 1.5 million gallons per day of treated effluent to Calls Creek.
The pipeline was proposed as a way of getting that treated effluent to the Middle Oconee River, where the state has said it will allow the discharge of additional sewage plant effluent.