unfit to eat or drink

The-Brunswick-News-Editorial-8-5-14Too little too late? Georgia is one of those states where there is much bruiting about “local control” and how the people who live there know better what’s good for them. This editorial from the Brunswick News lays it out nicely.

In this country there are laws against stealing land, but that doesn’t stop the federal government and its oversized bureaucracies from doing it. They accomplish such thievery simply by changing the rules whenever they get a hankering to do so.

This has particularly been a problem for coastal communities and their residents. (click here to read the rest)

(You’d think that the editor of a newspaper would know that bureaucrats are just people who keep records in file drawers. But then, this one seems particular deficient when it comes to even seeing records as a store of history).

Historical accuracy is likely what prompted the following response from James Holland to the legislative members of the Aquifer Recharge Study Committee:

Good Afternoon Gentlemen,
Senator Ligon it was indeed a pleasure to see you at the table representing us along the coast. As I mentioned at this meeting, I attended a legislative water study about twenty years ago at the then invitation of Senator Ed Boshears (Republican, Brunswick). I was also invited to speak at the committee meeting and my message was basically the same that the loss of our wetlands and the over pumping of the Upper Floridan aquifer by the pulp mills. Back then I was a commercial blue crab fisherman with about twenty or so years experience and I talked about how the loss of this freshwater was impacting our fisheries. Due to the loss of this freshwater came extraordinarily high salinities from the sea and we were also entering into a very severe drought and the waters got warmer and saltier and then all of a sudden we discovered our crabs were dying in the river for no apparent reason. However, it did not take our marine scientists long to figure out that with these warmer, saltier waters came a dinoflagellate called hematodinium that attacked our crabs blood stream depriving them of the necessary oxygen to survive. Unfortunately, we learned that crabs being canniballistic (Spelling?)if one crab died of this hematodinium and another crab came along and ate it, it would also die from this same disease, therefore setting off a chain reaction that put my industry on its knees and I do not believe it has fully recovered to this date.

Some in the state wanted to blame the drought for our woes but that was not true, we have had droughts ever since time began and the ones I saw before did not do this. In fact, the drought only exacerbated an existing problem which was the lack of freshwater input into our marsh and estuary systems.

I moved to Brunswick from Cochran, Ga after a nine year stint in the Marine Corps in 1967 and back then our larger swamps retained water at least waist deep year round. By 1985 the big timber industry had finished ditching and draining off our swamps as much as they could before the federal government stopped it. By about 1990, we started seeing declines in our annual blue crab landings that are kept by the Coastal Resources Division (CRD). In 1999 I left the fishery and started the Altamaha Riverkeeper (ARK) Organization. By then the crab fishery was just about gone so I advocated to stop wetland losses and other forms of pollution.

Okay, that is enough about why I do what I do so let’s get back to the legislative study committee meting I attended oh so many years ago. It took me a long time to figure out why Senator Ed Boshears invited me to that meeting and got me on the calendar to speak. After a lot of years I think he may have wanted me to witness first hand why he may have thought I was fighting a losing battle. After seeing that lobbyist from the Union Camp Corporation whispering in the senators ear that was co chair of that meeting before he would even speak taught me something. I would not call that Senator’s name out in a public forum this afternoon but it was Hugh Gillis which I believe was from Soperton. I think Mr. Gillis has also passed on as has Ed Boshears.

If y’all recall I said our legislature has not changed at all, it still thinks with a one track mind. I can now maybe explain that a little better in writing; from the moment of the first legislative meeting not one iota has changed that will spread the burden of cost in an equitable manner.

I have attached images of most of that long document I was holding in my right hand this afternoon showing who the guilty parties were that put us in this position with the most pristine drinking water on earth (the Upper Floridan Aquifer). Up above I mentioned the timber industry ditching and draining huge amounts of wetlands in southeast Georgia until the Federal Clean Water Act stopped them with new laws. I would like to mention just one of those swamps that used to hold waist deep water year round and that is the Cow Pen Swamp Off U.S. 341 northwest of Brunswick. I know that Jeff Chapman should know that swamp and vouch for what I have said. Occasionally back then you would see people along the road fishing in that swamp (me too), try it now and see what you catch. We have had some rain this year and you might get your trousers wet up close to your knee’s in spots but most years now it might be ankle deep. There is a reason for that and it is because the timber companies have ditched it and the surrounding swamps and these swamps feed almost directly into our estuarine waters and marshes. Take Cow Pen Creek for instance, it dumps out into the Turtle River right beside Plant McManus (Ga Power).

That is only one creek, compound it by hundreds along the coast and you have a tremendous loss of freshwater into our marshes and that is just counting the larger tributaries and not the smaller tribs that do the same thing. Heck, the upwellings (springs) in the swamps and woods no longer flow because they have either dried up or been capped and they flowed all year long back then.

When I mentioned the legislature only thinks with a one track mind is because the legislative participants only think about what the general public can do to help sustain the upper floridan aquifer. This train of thought always places the onus for the burden of cost on every person in the public whether they can afford it or not.

Why don’t we start thinking in a progressive long term manner by causing our major aquifer users to begin reusing their own waste water rather than polluting our rivers with it. I mentioned just one pulp mill this afternoon that could begin some form of loop system and reuse just 50% of the waste water they dump into the Altamaha River every day. Like i said earlier today, between the city of Brunswick and St. Simons Island together they discharge approximately 10 million gallons of waste water per day into our rivers. 50% of Rayonier’s waste water discharge would be about 30 million gallons per day which is approximately 3 times what Brunswick and St. Simons discharge combined. In other words, Brunswick and St. Simons together could operate approximately two and one half days off just 50% of Rayonier’s waste water that could be left in the upper Floridan Aquifer if Rayonier would recycle 50% of their uptake from this aquifer.

Do any of you realize what would happen to the surrounding area of Wayne County, Long County, Appling County and the northwestern section of Glynn County if they started reusing 50% of their own waste water? It would not take long before some citizens would see water showing up in places they had never seen it in their life time and that is only one major water user.

The legislators only have a one track mind and that is never disturb big industry and y’all know it and I know it and some day the public will get the message. If you want to nickel and dime the public to death about toilet bowels, showers and brushing teeth why can’t we think big time instead and look at how we can restore some of this water back to the landscape and cause industry to start reusing their waste water. By doing this, in the long haul our industries will create more wealth and you will have a more satisfied public by them knowing the legislature has taken care of their leisure time and not have water woes for many, many years to come.

I am asking you all at this time to please do a more comprehensive water study and this time use all the tools available to you, even ARS. However, ARS should be banned until we have a more comprehensive review that the public can rely upon. Thank you very much! James Holland, Concerned Citizen

P.S.
I will put this on hold for twenty four hours to give each of you time to review it and do with it as you please and then it will be released to others.

Of course, Holland attached pictures. Can’t have a communication from him without them.

Introduction Saltwater contamination is restricting the development of ground-water supply in coastal Georgia and adjacent parts of South Carolina and Florida. The principal source of water in the coastal area is the Upper Floridan aquifer, an extremely permeable and high-yielding aquifer, which was first developed in the late 1800’s. Pumping from the aquifer has resulted in substantial ground-water-level decline and subsequent saltwater intrusion of the aquifer from underlying strata containing highly saline water at Brunswick, Georgia, and with encroachment of seawater into the aquifer at the northern end of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The saltwater contamination at these locations has constrained further development of the Upper Floridan aquifer in the coastal area and has created competing demands for the limited supply of freshwater.
Introduction
Saltwater contamination is restricting the development of ground-water supply in coastal Georgia and adjacent parts of South Carolina and Florida. The principal source of water in the coastal area is the Upper Floridan aquifer, an extremely permeable and high-yielding aquifer, which was first developed in the late 1800’s. Pumping from the aquifer has resulted in substantial ground-water-level decline and subsequent saltwater intrusion of the aquifer from underlying strata containing highly saline water at Brunswick, Georgia, and with encroachment of seawater into the aquifer at the northern end of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The saltwater contamination at these locations has constrained further development of the Upper Floridan aquifer in the coastal area and has created competing demands for the limited supply of freshwater. (Source: USGS.gov)
Predevelopment Ground-Water Flow System Prior to development of the Floridan aquifer system in the 1880’s, recharge to the aquifer system was roughly offset by natural discharge. The Floridan aquifer system was replenished (recharged) by rainfall in areas where aquifer sediments are at or near land surface, generally west and northwest of the coast. Ground water flowed from areas of recharge downgradient toward the coast. The aquifer system was under artesian conditions and the pressure in the aquifer system was great enough that wells flowed at land surface throughout most of the coastal area. In some areas, pressure was high enough to elevate water to multi-story buildings without pumping. The artesian water level was about 65 feet above sea level at Brunswick, and 35 feet above sea level at Savannah. Ground water discharged naturally to springs, rivers, ponds, wetlands, and other surface-water bodies; as diffuse upward leakage into overlying adjacent aquifers; and to the Atlantic Ocean. As water flowed coastward, low-permeability sediments in the vicinity of the Gulf Trough inhibited ground-water flow and produced a steep flow gradient.
Predevelopment Ground-Water Flow System
Prior to development of the Floridan aquifer system in the 1880’s, recharge to the aquifer system was roughly offset by natural discharge. The Floridan aquifer system was replenished (recharged) by rainfall in areas where aquifer sediments are at or near land surface, generally west and northwest of the coast. Ground water flowed from areas of recharge downgradient toward the coast. The aquifer system was under artesian conditions and the pressure in the aquifer system was great enough that wells flowed at land surface throughout most of the coastal area. In some areas, pressure was high enough to elevate water to multi-story buildings without pumping. The artesian water level was about 65 feet above sea level at Brunswick, and 35 feet above sea level at Savannah. Ground water discharged naturally to springs, rivers, ponds, wetlands, and other surface-water bodies; as diffuse upward leakage into overlying adjacent aquifers; and to the Atlantic Ocean. As water flowed coastward, low-permeability sediments in the vicinity of the Gulf Trough inhibited ground-water flow and produced a steep flow gradient. (Source: USGS.gov)
Modern-Day Ground-Water Flow System Ground-water pumping has caused the water level in the Upper Floridan aquifer to decline throughout the entire coastal area, resulting in the development of cones of depression in areas of heavy, concentrated pumpage, such as the Savannah, Brunswick, Jesup, and St Marys, Georgia-Fernandina Beach, Florida, areas. Wells have ceased to flow at land surface in much of the coastal area. Many freshwater springs and seeps have ceased to discharge; freshwater wetlands and ponds that prior to development were sustained by flow from the Upper Floridan aquifer are no longer sustained by that flow. Although the cones of depression are deep, they do not intercept the top of the Upper Floridan aquifer; thus, dewatering or mining of water is not occurring. The pressure reduction has caused saltwater that is under higher pressure to flow into and contaminate the freshwater part of the aquifer in at least two locations—Brunswick, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Modern-Day Ground-Water Flow System
Ground-water pumping has caused the water level in the Upper Floridan aquifer to decline throughout the entire coastal area, resulting in the development of cones of depression in areas of heavy, concentrated pumpage, such as the Savannah, Brunswick, Jesup, and St Marys, Georgia-Fernandina Beach, Florida, areas. Wells have ceased to flow at land surface in much of the coastal area. Many freshwater springs and seeps have ceased to discharge; freshwater wetlands and ponds that prior to development were sustained by flow from the Upper Floridan aquifer are no longer sustained by that flow. Although the cones of depression are deep, they do not intercept the top of the Upper Floridan aquifer; thus, dewatering or mining of water is not occurring. The pressure reduction has caused saltwater that is under higher pressure to flow into and contaminate the freshwater part of the aquifer in at least two locations—Brunswick, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. (Source: USGS.gov)
Salwater Contamination at Brunswick, Georgia Saltwater contamination at Brunswick is the result of upward intrusion of saline water from the lower part of the Fernandina permeable zone into freshwater zones of the Lower Floridan, then Upper Floridan aquifers. Saltwater from the Fernandina permeable zone migrates upward through fractures and conduits in the limestone and dolostone confining units in response to reduced artesian pressure caused by pumping of water from the Upper Floridan aquifer. Upon reaching the aquifers in the southern part of Brunswick, the saltwater moves toward areas of ground-water pumping in the northern part of Brunswick. Contamination of the Upper Floridan aquifer in the Brunswick area is not due to lateral encroachment nor downward intrusion of seawater because the Upper Floridan aquifer is deeply buried at Brunswick (greater than 500 feet deep); the freshwater-saltwater interface is far from the coastline (more than 50 miles offshore); and perhaps most importantly, pressure in the Upper Floridan aquifer was greater than sea level when saltwater contamination at Brunswick was first detected in the late 1950’s. Lateral encroachment or vertical infiltration of saltwater may be possible, however, in the shallower surficial aquifer or in the upper and lower Brunswick aquifers.
Salwater Contamination at Brunswick, Georgia
Saltwater contamination at Brunswick is the result of upward intrusion of saline water from the lower part of the Fernandina permeable zone into freshwater zones of the Lower Floridan, then Upper Floridan aquifers. Saltwater from the Fernandina permeable zone migrates upward through fractures and conduits in the limestone and dolostone confining units in response to reduced artesian pressure caused by pumping of water from the Upper Floridan aquifer. Upon reaching the aquifers in the southern part of Brunswick, the saltwater moves toward areas of ground-water pumping in the northern part of Brunswick.Contamination of the Upper Floridan aquifer in the Brunswick area is not due to lateral encroachment nor downward intrusion of seawater because the Upper Floridan aquifer is deeply buried at Brunswick (greater than 500 feet deep); the freshwater-saltwater interface is far from the coastline (more than 50 miles offshore); and perhaps most importantly, pressure in the Upper Floridan aquifer was greater than sea level when saltwater contamination at Brunswick was first detected in the late 1950’s. Lateral encroachment or vertical infiltration of saltwater may be possible, however, in the shallower surficial aquifer or in the upper and lower Brunswick aquifers. (Source: USGS.gov)

There are just a couple of things I’d like to elaborate on. The first is that what Holland refers to as spreading “the burden of cost in an equitable manner,” is the inequity now commonly recognized as private benefit derived from public cost. This inequity was supposed to be avoided by the magic of “trickle down,” but that hasn’t worked. Instead, we have the concentration of wealth in the one percent. And it’s not just free water on the Georgia Coast that’s brought that on; there are also the federal food stamp and housing subsidies that keep the populace in penury. Republicans, in particular, are keen on teaching men to fish without giving a second thought to the fact that their industrial cohorts have rendered the fish (and crabs) unfit to eat.

The other thing I’d point out is that the legislators’ one-track doesn’t go where Holland might think. Fact is that the industrial interests that were presumed to benefit haven’t, at least not in the long term. The pulp industry is nearly defunct, as are “specialty wood products” (chemicals). Now the only industrial strength enterprise on the horizon is the REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) plan to carve the drained landscape into residential lots before they get flooded by the rising tide.

The thing about hydric soils is that, once they get de-watered, they become rock hard and rain water runs off even faster. The aquifer is not like a faucet that can be turned on and off. If a steady trickle is wanted anywhere, it’s there. Maybe if we said the land needs to be regularly moisturized, it would be easier to understand.

Finally, I think there’s a clue in the Brunswick News’ editor’s stance as to why conservatives don’t get anything of a practical nature done. Their reliance on bosses (leaders) doesn’t just serve to relieve individuals of responsibility for what goes on. Bosses intimidate and that hides the fact that they don’t know what to do. “Let George do it” doesn’t work, because George doesn’t know how. That’s what the bullying is designed to distract us from.

Knowledgeable people, on the other hand, don’t bully and that, ironically, puts them at a disadvantage. Bullies coerce because it’s the only thing they know. So, when a polite fellow like James Holland shows up, it’s like showing a red flag to one of the bulls of Pamplona. But, if Ed Boshears was aiming to discourage James Holland, that didn’t work either. This old man is still agitating on behalf of the creatures that live in the sea, and on the land, including his fellow man.

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Editor's Note: This story also published at Hannah Blog.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."