Category Archives: EPA

Tens of thousands commented against a strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp

Hahira, Georgia, May 30, 2020 — From every U.S. state and beyond, tens of thousands comments poured in to the Army Corps against a permit application for a titanium strip mine far too near the unique blackwater gem of the Okefenokee Swamp. The comment period ended Thursday. You and your elected officials can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the right thing and deny this permit, or at least require an Environmental Impact Statement.

[44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map]
44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map

“With its unique ecosystem and incomparable beauty,” says Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “the Okefenokee Swamp is a national and international treasure, and the source of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. With its opportunities for boating, birding, fishing, photography, adventure, and hunting nearby attracting 600,000 visitors a year and supporting more than 700 jobs, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) provides more economic benefit to each of Georgia and Florida than any other refuge.”

The groups supporting the Swamp and opposing the mine include twenty Waterkeepers from three states, and umbrella organizations Waterkeepers Florida and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org, 229-242-0102.

See below for a longer press release from Georgia River Network about the several dozen organizations loosely associated to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from anything that might harm it, such as this strip mine for private profit for paint.


Tens of Thousands Voice Opposition Over Mine Proposed to be Located Next to the Okefenokee Swamp

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Waterkeepers Florida to Army Corps and EPA against strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-04-10

On Friday, Waterkeepers Florida, a regional entity composed of all 13 Waterkeeper organizations working in the State of Florida to protect and restore our water resources across over 45,000 square miles of watershed, which is home to over 15 million Floridians, wrote to both the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. EPA asking for more third-party comment on the application by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, to strip mine for titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers.

[WKFL logos]
WKFL logos

Today’s the comment deadline, and today you can also write such letters about Application Number SAS-2018-00554-SP-HAR. Here’s how:
http://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/#howtocomment

Waterkeepers Florida (WKFL) to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

See also Continue reading

More testing needed to track river pollution –Suwannee Riverkeeper in Gainesville Sun 2020-03-16

Gainesville Sun, 12:01 AM, Monday, March 16, 2020, John S. Quarterman: More testing needed to track river pollution (see also PDF),

Fecal bacterial contamination from Georgia probably reached the Gulf of Mexico about March 3, 2020, according to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD).

[Tifton to the Gulf]
Tifton to the Gulf
In the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

The good news: we know about that, because of much more water quality monitoring being done since I wrote a column about the issue last year for The Sun.

This recent testing was provoked by a spill of 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage into Sugar Creek near Valdosta, Ga., in December. With no rain, the sewage sat there for a week, and then moved down the Withlacoochee River in about three weekly globs, at least once reaching the Suwannee.

This Valentine’s Day, Valdosta exceeded our request, testing not one but Continue reading

Supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp ready to stop new strip mine application by Twin Pines Minerals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, March 16, 2020 — The coalition of supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp against anything that would harm it stands ready to stop the new strip mine application, same as the old one.

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) of Birmingham, Alabama, in its new application claims its proposed titanium strip mine less than three miles from the Okefenokee Swamp would be on a “reduced mining area,” which is actually 86% of what they proposed last time. They say they want to do a “demonstration” mine.

[Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine]
Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine
PDF

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman says, “Let their foot in the door and it will be even harder to get rid of them later. TPM is under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four mines due south in north Florida. Chemours now wants a fifth Florida titanium mine on Trail Ridge. Why would we think TPM would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia? Our Okefenokee Swamp with its fishing, boating, birding, and hunting nearby, is much more important than any mine, especially since it is the headwaters of the Suwannee River and the St Marys River.”

Despite TPM’s assurances, the miners have not proven their mining would not affect the groundwater, the underlying Floridan Aquifer, surface streams, or the Okefenokee Swamp.

Their application form proposes to mine 1041.7 acres, the same size tract as in their application of last year that they retracted in early January of this year. But their actual application says “TPM now wishes to conduct a demonstration mining project for a reduced mining area of approximately 898 acres.”

86% of the original acreage is not much reduced. And how is that just a demonstration?

No doubt you will hear more about that and other problems with the miners’ application from the coalition supporting the Swamp and opposing anything that would harm it. That coalition includes a wide range of organizations, Continue reading

EPA passes the buck to GA-EPD for Valdosta raw sewage spill 2020-01-31

The EPA took weeks to write to WWALS to confirm less than what it said in the January 8, 2019 meeting in Madison, Florida:


      220 years to fix? Need better oversight --Brannan, EPA
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, still from WWALS Video, Madison, Florida, of Carol L. Kemker, Director, Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, and others.

In Georgia, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has authority for establishing procedures for how permitted utilities are to respond during a major spill event. The EPA has delegated permitting authority to the state under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program (NPDES). However, the EPA does maintain a state oversight role. After the sewage spill into the Withlacoochee, the EPA reached out to EPD to ensure the spill’s cause was properly addressed and notification procedures were followed. The EPA continues to work with EPD to reduce the possibility of future spills from Valdosta into the Withlacoochee River.

No detail was included in the EPA Region 4 letter to WWALS as to how the spill’s cause was to be addressed, or why notification procedures were the only other topic worth mentioning. EPA Region 4’s response says nothing about water quality testing, tracking procedures, alternative water supply, water well testing cost reimbursement, wildlife on land and water, underground plumes of contamination, or an educational campaign; all topics listed in the WWALS letter to which EPA is replying.

Apparently it took a week for the email I forwarded to EPA Region 4 on December 17th to get there on December 23, 2019. Then it took another month for EPA to send a paper reply letter in fancy packaging.

EPA also recommended: Continue reading

Reject or EIS: Twin Pines Minerals mine near Okefenokee –U.S. Rep. Al Lawson 2020-02-13

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr, Twitter, 2PM, 14 February 2020, @RepAlLawsonJr,

I sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s plan to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. These actions could have detrimental effects on the area’s biodiversity and natural resources.

[U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE]
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE


AL LAWSON
5TH DISTRICT, FLORIDA
ASSISTANT MAJORITY WHIP
COMMITTEE ON
FINANCIAL SERVICES
COMMITTEE ON
AGRICULTURE

Congress of the United States
 
House of Representatives
 
Washington, DC 20515-0905

February 13, 2020

Col. Daniel Hibner
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Savannah District
100 W. Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, Georgia 31401

Dear Hearing Officer:

I am writing to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s application for a clean water (CWA) permit to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Osceola National Forest, and Osceola Wildlife Management Area. I urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carefully consider the significant environmental, social, and economic costs that could occur if the permit is granted. It is crucial that the Corps require an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Furthermore, the Corps should reject the permit application if it appears the mine will harm the environment.

Trail Ridge and Okefenokee NWR

If approved, the project would destroy portions of Trail Ridge, which acts as Continue reading

Baker County, FL, resident responds to Charlton County, GA, about mine proposed near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-01-14

Mark Lyons, Charlton County Herald, January 14, 2020, Letter to the Editor: Response to City of Folkston, Development Authority,

Dear Editor,

I read with curiosity the Letter to the Editor from the City Council of Folkston and the Charlton County Development Commission giving their endorsement and support of the Twin Pines mining proposal. That letter raises so many questions. Where did these two boards obtain their scientific data that the mining would not affect the swamp and the environment? Much of the information offered in their letter appears to have been spoon fed to them directly from Twin Pines. There was no mention of where they obtained the scientific data that rendered such a strong endorsement that the mining will not harm the swamp or the environment. The letter did not mention any consultants or scientist who were hired by either of these two entities to inform them there wouldn’t be any environmental damage from the mining. How many scientist sit on the city board or the development council? Did the boards hire or consult any scientist at all? What was the name of the consulting firm either the city or the development board hired to supply them the scientific data that the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Where did the boards get their scientific data that gave them proof the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Please, I would ask you to share such valuable data with the public.

Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County
Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County, on Southwings flight for Suwannee Riverkeeper, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.

How can anyone determine and say the mining will not affect the environment when Continue reading

Florida Counties Task Force in Valdosta about sewage 2020-01-08

Update 2020-04-07: Cancelled: Florida Counties Task Force meeting with Valdosta City Council 2020-04-08.

Update 2020-01-31: Cleaner at Okapilco and Piscola Creeks and Withlacoochee River 2020-01-29.

There was good news, but actual responsibility or accountability by Valdosta was hard to find, at the January 8, 2020, evening meeting of the Florida counties Task Force with the Valdosta City Council. It was attended by a record number of citizens from Florida and Georgia, many of whom were quite vocal. You can see it all in these WWALS videos.

The good news included stormwater infiltration into the sewer system reduced by 25%, faster remediation of manholes, and the long-awaited catch basin for the WWTP is permitted. Yes, Valdosta has battery or generator backup for its lift stations and the two Wastewater Treatment Plants.

Per incoming Mayor Scott James Matheson’s request, I repeatedly described the Mayor’s Paddle organized by WWALS, then upcoming on January 18th. It went well, and we got a lot of good press out of it. Yet not a single person from Valdosta Utilities, nor the City Manager, paddled with WWALS and the Mayor. Valdosta even refused to test the Withlacoochee River before their own Mayor paddled: “We did what we were required to do.”

The new Mayor, at this meeting one day before being inaugurated, said he had met with the city staff and was impressed, but expected to hold them accountable. Many of us look forward to that.

In response to a question by Valdosta resident Tom Potter about whether legal liability was tied to the contractor, Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber said Valdosta takes “full responsibility.” But practically in the same breath he added, “but not full financial responsibility,” passing that off to the contractor.

Even about who is on the list to be notified of a spill, Continue reading

FL state Sen. Montford in Madison about Valdosta sewage 2020-01-08

Update 2019-01-28: Fourth wave: bad water quality at State Line and Knights Ferry 2020-01-26

Update 2020-01-24: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 24, 2020, Wells test positive for e-coli in Madison County,

If you weren’t at the Madison County meeting about Valdosta sewage, 1PM, Wednesday, January 8, 2020, you can see the whole thing in these videos I took for WWALS.

[Movie: Fines? Lawsuits? EPA answer questions? (331M)]
Movie: Fines? Lawsuits? EPA answer questions? (331M)

If you want a shorter version, try Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer, January 11, 2020, 7.5 Mil Gal of Raw Sewage Headed Into N. FL From Valdosta – FL Sen. Bill Montford Wants Answers. See Stew ask his very perceptive question, Continue reading

Water fast and dirty at Nankin Boat Ramp after Valdosta record sewage spill 2019-12-26

2019-12-28: High E. coli at state line in Florida DOH water quality data 2019-12-24.

At Nankin Thursday: 533 cfu/100 mL E. coli, well above the state limit of 200, and up from 33 on December 15, and zero on December 11 and 8 and November 23.

Florida already saw elevated bacterial counts at the state line on Tuesday, so the Withlacoochee River is apparently contaminated with Valdosta sewage all the way from Sugar Creek down to the Florida line. Yet Valdosta still hasn’t put up any warning signs on the Withlacoochee River downstream from Sugar Creek.

[Across]
Across

That December 26th reading by Suzy Hall at Nankin Boat Ramp isn’t as high as her recent numbers at Knights Ferry: 6,767 on December 24 and 4,966 on December 21st (with 100 on December 15th and zero on December 11th). Nonetheless, it looks like Valdosta’s sewage has spread downstream from Knights Ferry to Nankin.

At 533 cfu/100 ml, you probably don’t want to get that river water on you. Georgia standards indicate Continue reading