ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners August meeting saw an unexpected addition to its agenda as citizens from the Rainbow Lake area met to ask the board to stop the clear cutting of over 500 acres of Timber in the area.
“Devastation,” the word kept arising as citizen after citizen walked to the podium asking the Commissioners to stop the process, or somehow change it to selective cutting.
It is the word that Diane Davenport used when she said she lived downstream of the area. She told the board, “It’s going to devastate us for as long as I live, and as long as my family who inherit my land live.”
Joe Paprocki offered a structured argument against the clear-cut saying there are four main areas majorly affected in the county by this process.
The first area is the water, “We think the soil erosion and silt run-off will critically impact not only Rainbow Lake itself, but James Creek, Mountaintown Creek, and even Carter’s Lake. It will also impact our groundwater and well water.”
The second area is the wildlife, “We believe a clear-cut of this magnitude will be, pretty much, a 100% obliteration of habitat which will vastly diminish animal populations… for many years to come.”
The third area is the countywide quality of life, “We believe people come to Gilmer County to enjoy its forests, lake, creeks, fresh air, and natural beauty. We believe deforestation on this scale will force people like us to reconsider where we are living, if we want to be surrounded and hemmed in by this devastation.”
The fourth area is the property values, “I think we will almost immediately see property values plummet… That means tax revenues are going to go down with it, and county services will go down. Jobs will probably be lost.”
Paprocki said that he has heard people say its private property and there is nothing they can do, but that “800 acres” of devastation, an area large enough to land a 747 commercial airplane, affects the public and is, therefore, a public issue.
One citizen called the area a “war-zone” affecting the lives of the animals she keeps on a farm in the area, another referred to the endangered species in the area as well as the threat of invasive species cropping up after the clear-cut.
As if punctuating the emotion of the community, Alvin Sisson stepped to the podium. Speaking slowly and holding back tears, he choked out his words in short parts. “I was born and raised in Gilmer County, in this area. I have worked the whole project when they built Rainbow Lake. I worked Rainbow Lake from cutting the brush to building the dam itself.”
Noting the three major creeks that feed into Rainbow Lake, Sisson said the creeks would go red with mud before they feed that into the lake as a whole. He noted 500-foot buffers would not stop the devastation, they would not hold back the destruction of the area.
Everyone who spoke either opposed the clear-cut or asked to change to selective cut except one.
Richie Mullins of the Georgia Forestry Commission offered what basically became a crash course in the Commission’s water and forest quality assurance. Walking those present through the logging process and his part, as a Water Quality Specialist, in continuing to maintain the creeks’ and lake’s clarity in the process of and the aftermath of the project.
Calling himself the “Erosion Police,” Mullins assured citizens that he was the area’s biggest advocate for maintaining the lake and the water. Even he never fully said the clear-cut was a good thing, instead trying to assure citizens that he would monitor the project and address their concerns.
Even he himself told a resident that he would prefer a selective cut.
The situation was summed up in one short sentence by Commission Chairman Charlie Paris as he said, “I’d stop it if I could, but I can’t.”
He went on to explain that while he wholeheartedly agreed with citizens about avoiding the clear-cut at all costs, he could not find any legal ways to force the issue. Pausing a moment, he said that if anyone had a legal argument he wanted it so that he could use it. As he stated, in the end, it is their land and they can do it as long as they follow the rules.
“I hate that,” said Paris, “and I know not as much as ya’ll do, but I do hate that.”
Despite the disappointing response, one citizen stood to say, “We just appreciate being heard so that other people know about what is going on because, frankly, it blindsided me.”
As it stands with citizens continuing to look for answers to the project, it seems that they will be keeping a close eye on the logging operation alongside the Forestry Commission to maintain the area after the project completes.
Well Water Testing
By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
For the most part, north Georgia did not see extreme flooding as a result of hurricane Irma as did other areas of the state, but it does bring to mind the importance of well safety. Wells that were overtopped by flood waters need to be flushed and tested for bacteria because of the potential danger of contaminants being washed into the well. UGA Extension Water Resource Management and Policy Specialist Gary Hawkins recommends pumping and flushing a minimum of 2 or 3 times the well volume to clear the system. This water should be discarded from an outside faucet and not from an inside faucet to bypass the home’s septic tank. After pumping the water, the well should be shock chlorinated then the well should be flushed again until there is no smell of chlorine bleach and, like before, the flushing step should be done through an outdoor faucet to bypass the septic system. This highly chlorinated water, if discharged to the septic tank, could cause problems with the bacterial colonies in the septic tank.
After the well is shock-chlorinated, flushed and the chlorine smell is gone (about two weeks), the well water should be tested for bacteria. Families can get their well water tested using their local county UGA Extension office. Until the test for bacteria comes back, Hawkins strongly suggests that water for cooking or drinking be boiled before consumption. If the well contains bacteria the report will explain how to treat the well.
To calculate the volume of water that should be pumped from a well, use the following calculation. Most of the well casings in this area are 6 inches so the factor for that size is 1.47. That means that there are 1.47 gallons of water for every foot in depth. Multiply the depth of water in the well by this factor to determine how much water is in the well. If your casing is not 6 inches, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office and we can get the right factor.
There are several methods to determine how much water you have flushed out, but the one that I use is to calculate how long it takes to fill a 5 gallon bucket. Divide that time by 5 to get the output per minute. Using this figure you can determine how many minutes you need to run the water to flush the number of gallons of water that was determined in the previous calculation. A couple of methods can be used to determine the depth of water in a well. If you can see the water in the well, lower a heavy object tied to a string down the well and measure the length of the string until you see the object touch the water. In a deep well, lower a heavy object like above until you hear the object hit the water and measure the length of string. If you cannot see the object hit the water, another way (but less accurate) is to drop a small stone into the well and count or time the seconds it takes for the stone to hit the water (you will have to listen closely for this.) Multiply the number of seconds by 32.2 and that will let you know how far the water is below the surface. Knowing the depth of the well and the depth from surface, subtract the two to get the height of the water column for calculating the volume of water in the well.
An example of this calculation is if you have a well that is 300 feet deep and the water level is 25 feet from the surface, subtracting 25 from 300 equals 275 which means you have 275 feet of water in the well. Multiply 275 by 1.47 to get the gallons in the well. That figure is 404.25 gallons. Using a factor of 3 pints per 100 gallons, you would need to apply a little over 12 pints of chlorine bleach in the well.
If you have any questions about this process or for more information on well water testing, contact me at the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.
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Public Health Notice: DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM FLOODED WELLS OR SPRINGS
North Georgia – Due to recent weather conditions, any well or spring that has been covered with flood waters must be considered contaminated. Do not drink the water until after flood waters have receded, the well or spring has been disinfected with household bleach and the water has been laboratory tested. Contact the local county Environmental Health Office for questions and further instructions, if needed.
Disinfecting a Well
Well disinfection is necessary if the well or spring was covered with flood waters. Before chlorinating, it is important to check the integrity of the well or spring water source to prevent future contamination. Well construction must prevent entry of surface water, debris, insects and animals. The well casing and concrete slab should be sealed and the well cap or sanitary seal must be secure. Springs should be in a sealed spring house.
- Thoroughly clean all accessible outside surfaces removing any loose debris and mud around the well or spring. Then, wash the well area with a strong chlorine solution (1 quart of household bleach per 5 gallon of water).
- Determine the amount of water in the well. Calculate the amount of bleach chlorine needed. DO NOT USE SCENTED BLEACHES. Health officials recommend using the normal strength household bleach, which is 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite.
- Remove the well cap or place a funnel into the small vent pipe of the well cap. Use the table below and add the appropriate amount of bleach. A minimum of 50 ppm chlorine solution is required:
|20’||3 pints||3 pints||½ gal.||½ gal.||2 gal.||3 gal.|
|40’||3 pints||3 pints||½ gal.||¾ gal.||–||–|
|80’||3 pints||½ gal.||½ gal.||¾ gal.||–||–|
|100’||3 pints||½ gal.||¾ gal.||1 gal.||–||–|
If depth and diameter are unknown, 1 gallon of bleach can be used. Extra bleach does not necessarily mean extra disinfection and can be a health hazard in itself.
DO NOT DRINK OR PREPARE FOODS WITH WATER WHILE BLEACH IS IN THE WATER SYSTEM!
- Run water from an outside faucet through a hose until a strong chlorine odor can be detected. Place the end of the hose in the well allowing the water to run down the sides of the casing and circulate for at least 15 minutes. Replace the well cap.
- Turn off the hose and enter the home opening each tap, one at a time, until the smell of chlorine can be detected. Please include hot water faucets, toilets, bathtubs, washing machine, etc.
- Once the chlorine odor reaches all outlets, let the water system stand for 8 hours, preferably overnight. Refrain from any water use during this time.
- Flush the system of chlorine by turning on an outside faucet letting it run until the chlorine odor dissipates. Finally, run indoor faucets until the water is clear and the chlorine odor is gone. Do not run any unnecessary water into the septic system or allow the chlorinated water to drain directly into a stream or pond. Continue this process until the odor of bleach is completely gone.
- The water should be laboratory tested to determine if it is safe to drink. It is recommended that over the next several weeks two additional samples be taken to be sure results are satisfactory. Repeated chlorination and/or a well professional should be called if problems remain.
- If not sure how to disinfect a well or spring, how to take a well sample or how to get laboratory results, contact the local county Environmental Health Office.
Written by Raymond King, Director of Environmental Health, North Georgia Health District 1-2
For direct access to this Public Health Notice on our website, log onto http://nghd.org/pr/34-/741-public-health-notice-do-not-drink-water-from-flooded-wells-or-springs.html
Southeast Connections (“SEC”), a contractor for Atlanta Gas Light, has been using 94 Moore Lane in Gilmer County as a slurry dumping ground for an undetermined amount of time. Gilmer tax records currently shows 94 Moore Lane being owned by James Moore. Sources tell FYN that James Moore deeded the property to his son Jonathan Moore and it has yet to show up on the tax record. Jonathan is employed by Southeast Connections and drives the slurry pump truck.
After receiving complaints of suspicious dumping, James Holloway, Gilmer County Code Enforcement Officer, visited the site. Holloway’s visit confirmed that slurry was being dumped on an unapproved site. Holloway immediately issued a stop work order notice to Atlanta Gas Light and Southeast Connection for the natural gas line project currently underway on highway 282. He then notified Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Friday, December 11th, Holloway sent a notice of violation from Gilmer County Code Enforcement to Atlanta Gas Light, James Moore, and Southeast Connections.
Holloway tells FYN that a preconstruction meeting was held at the Gilmer County Code Enforcement office approximately three weeks ago. According to Holloway he made it clear to SEC during the meeting that the slurry from the Hwy 282 gas line project had to be dumped at an approved site. SEC is now taking the slurry from the Hwy 282 gas line cleanup to an approved site in Cartersville, GA.
The slurry has been running into a tributary in Gilmer County for an undetermined amount of time. (A tributary is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or river main stream.) This tributary runs into a trout stream, Running Town Creek. The creek runs beside old Hwy 5 behind Bryan’s store.
Friday SEC started clean up efforts. It brought in several backhoe tractors, dump trucks and pump trucks-millions of dollars of equipment. They brought a crew of 50 employees to work the clean up effort. Non stop truck loads of gravel, stone and hay were delivered to the site. SEC told Holloway that they would maintain these efforts through the weekend.
FYN visited the site Friday and witnessed the dump area before Mr. Moore told me I was on private property and asked me to leave. We were able to see the beginning clean up efforts. I visited the site again Saturday morning. SEC had trucks using a pump to remove the slurry and muddy water. They are taking it to the only known approved site in the area, Yellowstone in Cartersville. They built rock dams in several areas to slow the flow of slurry. Holloway was on site documenting the clean up. Holloway told us he was taking pictures of every phase of the clean up. He said he would be doing a second site visit later Saturday and would return on Sunday to continue to follow the clean up effort. Rain is expected Monday and could slow the clean up.
Holloway told FYN that EPD would be in Gilmer County Monday morning to begin their investigation and will visit the site. Later in the afternoon a meeting is scheduled at the Gilmer County Code Enforcement office. We understand that Atlanta Gas Light, SEC, EPD and Gilmer Code Enforcement Officer James Holloway will be attending the meeting. Sources tell FYN that the County attorney, David Clark, may be in attendance.
Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division was also contacted. Holloway told FYN that he took Sgt. John Vanlandingham to the dump site Friday evening. Sgt. Vanlandingham meet with Jonathan Moore. Vanlandingham told Holloway that he would be following up Monday. It’s unknown if DNR will be attending the meeting Monday. Holloway said that he has been told that the District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee has been briefed of the situation.
FYN spoke to SEC Safety Director Keith Plemons. We asked Plemons what product was used in the drilling process that created the yellow color in the slurry? He would not tell us and added that SEC would present the name of the product to EPA at the meeting Monday. We asked if Moore was an SEC employee and drove the slurry pump truck for the company, he confirmed this but was not able to remember how long Moore has been with the company. We asked if Moore was still employed with SEC to which he said “yes” but that was under deliberation at this time. We asked, who is Moore’s SEC direct supervisor, he told us, “Paul Preston.” We asked if the only slurry dumped was from the Hwy 282 gas line project, he said “as far as we know” but that was being looked into. We asked if the product was a petroleum based product, he answered “no it was not.”
We have sent Plemons a question asking if SEC is currently working on the Dalton Gas Line Expansion project. We have not received an answer.
Sources tell FYN that Moore has worked for SEC for approximately a year and has driven the slurry pump truck home the entire time and Source suspects that he has been dumping on the property for quite some time. FYN was told that before Moore worked for SEC he worked for another company where he drove a pump truck that he brought home after work.
We received the following comment from Gilmer County Commission Chair Charlie Paris concerning the unpermitted dumping,
“The discovery of a sludge dumping site in Gilmer County is a great disappointment. That anyone could deliberately damage the beauty, the natural resources, and the environment of our county is beyond comprehension for me. I want to assure our citizens that we will not rest until the area is returned to its natural state. Our chief environmental enforcement officer, James Holloway, has been on site full time since his discovery of the site last week, including working all weekend to monitor the cleanup. This will continue to be his absolute top priority. James has issued a Stop Work Order that will prevent any further construction until this situation is resolved. He will work with officials from EPD and, if necessary, EPA to ensure that all corrective actions are taken and to send the message very clearly that Gilmer County will not tolerate the destruction of our environment or quality of life. I want to commend Atlanta Gas Light Company and their contractor, SEC, for accepting responsibility and stepping up to do what is necessary to make this right. Although this will be a very expensive cleanup, there should be no cost to the taxpayers of Gilmer County.”
Hopefully many questions will be answered in the coming week. It is very expensive to dump at an approved site so did SEC not realize they were saving a large sum in dump fees? Could just two weeks of slurry from the Hwy 282 project create the amount seen in the pictures or has slurry from other job sites outside the county been dumped on the property? How many from SEC were aware Moore was not taking the slurry to the approved dump site? If SEC was aware that they had to use an approved site is this not illegal dumping? Was Moore gaining financially from dumping on his own property, and, if so, who all knew about it? If the solution used to create the slurry is non toxic or not an environmental hazard then why require an approved dump site? Why not just consider it fill dirt? How many loads did Moore dump?
Maybe between EPD, DNR, Gilmer Code Enforcement and the District Attorney, citizens of Gilmer County can get answers to these questions. FYN will follow up Monday with Gilmer County Code Enforcement.
Although SEC seems to be working hard in this cleanup effort spending what would appear to be hundreds of thousands of dollars, if they hadn’t dumped the slurry in Gilmer County in the first place, they wouldn’t have had to spend this money. Fifty men working the weekend 2 weeks before Christmas! What will be the total cost of this clean up total?
See Related Story: Possible 2 Million Environmental Disaster in Gilmer County