GEORGIA'S "DIRTY DOZEN"
Shoal Creek and Flat Creek
Oconee & Ogeechee rivers
South Georgia wetlands
Brier & Commissioner creeks
Source: Georgia Water Coalition
The river that drains most of Northwest Georgia has been named one of the state's "Dirty Dozen" by the Georgia Water Coalition.
On its list released Saturday, the coalition included the Coosa River, which is formed from water that starts in the Conasauga, Oostanaula, Coosawattee, Chattooga and other Northwest Georgia streams.
The group says its list is "exposing the worst offenses to Georgia's water" and blames funding cuts to Georgia's Environmental Protection Division. The cuts, combined with a lack of political will to enforce environmental laws, have put the streams in the condition they are in, group officials said.
Jerry McCollum, president of the Georgia Wildlife Federation and a founding member of the coalition, said the list "is a call to action."
"The sites populating this list are only poster children for the larger problem of a system that is failing to protect our water, our fish and wildlife and our communities," he said.
For the Coosa, the list specifically blasts Plant Hammond, a 57-year-old coal-fired power plant west of Rome, saying it withdraws too much water and discharges warm water that affects the river's quality downstream.
"During times of drought when river flows dip as low as 460 million gallons a day, the river literally flows upstream at the plant's intake pipes," the report states.
Joe Cook, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, called the plant "a relic from an earlier era of power plant building."
"We can do it better now," he said.
In documents on Georgia Power's website, the utility calls Plant Hammond "an environmental showcase for the nation's coal-fired generating units" because of $12 million worth of improvements to reduce air pollution.
"Georgia Power's commitment to protecting the environment is reflected in its investments for pollution control," the website states.
The website also touts the utility's environmental record and contends its generating plants return 90 percent of the water they withdraw. In 2008, Georgia Power installed cooling towers on its Plant McDonough on the Chattahoochee River to reduce the thermal impact of discharges on the water, according to the website.
In April, the utility company announced the creation of the Water Research Center at Plant Bowen in Cartersville, which is on the Etowah River, a Coosa tributary.
"Keeping the lights on requires significant water resources, so we have a vested interest in using water wisely," the company website states.
Cook said upstream users could help the situation by using less water and using less electricity, which he said go hand in hand.
"When we conserve electricity, we're also conserving water," he said.