This week, the Georgia Water Coalition, a consortium of more than 260 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations, released its Dirty Dozen Report, "a call to action, highlighting the worst offenses to Georgia's water," and the Etowah River, which runs through Dawson County, made the list due to issues with landfills along the waterway such as “liquid waste causes landfills to collapse, pollute local streams and river in Forsyth and Cherokee counties.”
“In North Georgia, recent serious failures at landfills in Forsyth and Cherokee counties near the Etowah River have highlighted the risks of dumping too much municipal sewer sludge alongside household garbage,” the report said. “The failures have prompted EPD to propose new landfill regulations that should be adopted post haste.”
The Etowah, which runs 160 miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Rome, is home to 75 native species of fish and has more imperiled species – 17 fish species and 16 invertebrate species – than any other river in the southeast, per the report.
Eagle Point Landfill in northwest Forsyth and Pine Bluff Landfill in Ball Ground were referenced in the report due to slope failures that opened fissures and allowed leachate – or water that has gone through a solid and absorbed some of its contents – to flow into waterways, which resulted in fines totaling $427,000 for the landfills.
“The sludge-induced crisis at the landfills has rippled through Georgia’s wastewater treatment facilities, causing disposal prices for sewage sludge to spike,” the report said. “Though alternatives exist (composting, drying, incineration and recycling as fertilizer), landfills remain the go-to sites for biosolids disposal.”
The report calls for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ board to adopt changes to the state’s solid waste management rules and to fund the state Environmental Protection Division to review the high moisture content waste management plans.
The report also touched on issues with Georgia’s other waterways, including the Altamaha River, the Chattahoochee River near Columbus, Little Lotts Creek, the Ogeechee River, the Okefenokee Swamp, the Satilla River, Saint Simons Sound and Cumberland Island.