Roy Hubbard Speaks Out Against Gov. Perdue’s EPA Director

The following was submitted to Blogging Richmond Hill by a third party. The information presented as fact should be verified and opinions contained are for your own consideration. We welcome continued discussion from all involved on the following topic

The residents of the coast of Georgia have been poorly served by the Governor’s office. The crowning blow, as he prepares to leave office, was Perdue’s appointment of F. Allen Barnes as Director of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD). F. Allen Barnes is not a scientist like the person he replaced. He is an attorney and, as I understand it, a very successful one in litigating, not for the protection of our environment, but against it by defending major polluters in the world.

During this past legislative session there was a flurry of bills originating in both houses aimed at weakening the ability of the public to challenge to what might be considered to be bad decisions made by the EPD. Coincidence? Certainly none of the bills had Mr. Barnes or the Governor’s name attached.

It is my opinion that the most outrageous actions and decisions by the EPD involve the proposed waste water treatment plant in Liberty County.
As I understand, over a year ago the construction was stopped after a seven million dollar expenditure of tax dollars on a project that had not been approved by the State. The developer had provided an environmental impact study which the EPD had accepted and was prepared to issue the permit. One can assume that to spend seven million dollars without a permit meant that they were quite sure one was coming before the so-called impact study was ever done. The Environmental Impact Document (EID) was publically disclosed as totally inadequate.

Mr. Wayne Murphy is the project manager for the design engineering firm CH2MHill building the plant. In an attempt to prove the feasibility of the plant to community leadership in Bryan County, Mr. Murphy did a power point presentation before the Richmond Hill Rotary Club which, true to form, appeared to be a jumble of questionable data and diagrams taken from irrelevant files. I. E. fecal coli form bacteria count taken from Kay Creek which is ten miles across land from the proposed discharge point in the Medway River.

I believe that what Mr. Murphy did prove that day was his unquestionable ignorance of the eco-system into which he was prepared to discharge treated effluent. I have to say in Mr. Murphy’s defense that he is an engineer, not a scientist but for that very reason he should not have been involved in that aspect of the project at all. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, CH2MHill did not see the need to even have a marine scientist on staff and involved with this project.

Dr. Carol Couch, an experienced marine scientist was director of the EPD at that time. Dr. Couch left the service of the EPD and returned to academia. That would be a place where true science is practiced not political manipulation with the end justifying the means. She was replaced by an attorney who was appointed by the Governor.

When public outcry smothered the efforts to proceed with the plant construction and its potential danger to the salt marsh system, Mr. Jeff Larson, EPD public relations, was sent in to clear the path and quiet the public voice. “Stakeholder” meetings of very questionable value were held. They were questionable because they were designed to dull public interest and provide a platform to proceed with a politically pre-determined outcome.

Scientists from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography ( SkIO) volunteered their time to sit with the personnel from EPD and discuss the proper procedures to evaluate the proposed discharge area. The question posed by CEPA was simply, “would the tidal areas proposed as receptacles for a 3.2 million gallon a day discharge from the plant be able to disperse that discharge without potential for serious damage”?

The Coastal Estuary {Protection Association (CEPA) asked repeatedly for qualified personnel to do a proper study as is required by the State. We strongly suggested that SkIO scientists be invited to help plan and initiate the study.

Unfortunately the advice of the SkIO group was systemically ignored. The project manager for EPD attended the meeting from a swimming pool in Florida via cell phone. I spoke with her after that and by her own admission she was not even sure who was at the meeting. Were I a PhD from SkIO I would consider that a professional insult.

When I observed the indifference that EPD personnel were projecting and the public relations maneuvering being done by Jeff Larson, spokesman for the Governor’s office, I assured everyone who wanted to listen that the EPD was on a course to quiet the public, kill a little time, pretend to do a new survey and announce, on schedule, the granting of the permit from their findings. Actually they gave us a date. They said February of 2010. They missed by a couple of weeks but there we are. They knew before they even started how long the “study” would take and you can darn well believe that they knew what the answer was going to be also.

Two basic rules for the scientific study were considered a must by scientists from SkIO who have personally spent many years, some even lifetimes, doing the very research being discussed. Federal EPA scientists agree…

  • First and foremost, the period of time allocated for the study was of paramount importance because of the complexities and the ever changing dynamics of tidal waters, particularly those along the Georgia coast. It was commonly accepted by marine scientists who are considered experts in the field by their peers, that at least a year and possibly more time on site would be needed to collect sufficient data with which to make reasonable decisions or projections. May I remind you that it was over a year and a half ago that this advice was given?
  • Secondly, the collected data must be processed with what is known as a three dimensional model. It has been suggested that such complicated modeling should be done by professionals who specialize in modeling and not by the research scientists themselves. Certainly one benefit of this would be an unbiased product.

EPD, in particular Dr. Elizabeth Booth, project manager, proceeded to ignore all advice. Whether this was a collective decision among the EPD staff in Atlanta, or she chose this path on her own, or was instructed to do so, I cannot say. However, in my opinion I think Dr. Booth knows better.

The data collection period was literally a matter of a few hours out of a few days on the water. Not even a few full days, not a few months, not even close to the recommended year. The data collected and subsequently presented as sufficient is a charade of science.

To add insult to injury where good science is involved, a single dimensional model was used to process the data. The model I am referring to was provided to the EPD by the Federal EPA and described as a model that an”inexperienced” person could use. Its application was to be inland fresh water rivers that flow in one direction. We ended up with inexperienced personnel applying an improper model to insufficient data to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion.

Needless to say, a couple of weeks ago Jeff Larson held another of his “stakeholder” meetings and announced that, in the words of Dr Booth, “an intense study” had been completed. The result of that study concluded that there would be no problem dumping 3.2 million gallons of treated sewage into the salt marsh. The permit has been approved. The clever maneuvering orchestrated by Mr. Larson effectively eliminated any public participation in the process past their bogus first ‘stakeholder’ meeting.

The government does what it pleases and to hell with the people. Want to complain about it? You don’t need to go to Washington. Atlanta is right in our backyard. Go Fish.

Governor Perdue is coming to Richmond Hill to go turkey hunting. He has already been turkey hunting and WE coastal residents are the turkeys.

Roy Hubbard

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