Columbus Water Works appeals permit issued by GA’s EPD, says “water is clean” over concerns of pollution in the river

Local News

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Columbus Water Works is appealing a new permit issued by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.

The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a state environmental advocacy agency, says river infrastructure must improve to keep people safe. But the Columbus Water Works says they are driven by data and science, and their weekly water tests confirm no changes are needed.

We live here. Our employees live here. We love the river. And we want to protect it just like anyone else. If there was anything that was going to harm the river, we would be the first to step up to say Yes, we need another limit or we need to improve the treatment,” says Vic Burchfield, Senior Vice President of Columbus Water Works.

Meanwhile, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, says they are concerned about pollution in the river.

“The main pollutant of concern that we’re talking about with this issue is E.coli. This is bacteria from sewage and these are the types of things that could make someone sick if they come in contact with the water,” says Jason Ulseth, spokesperson for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

Columbus Water Works says this type of infrastructural change would be massive monetary investment, without the promise of future improvements. 

“It’s going to cause the citizens of Columbus and the customers of Columbus Water Works to possible invest tens of millions of more dollars to achieve an end of pipe limit that’s not really going to improve the water quality,” says Burchfield.

However, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper says by choosing to appeal this permit, Columbus Water Works is still having to invest financially in legal fees.

“We are very disappointed that Columbus Water Works has decided to take the route to legally challenge this permit instead of investing those financial resources in good sewer infrastructure and improving the river, they’re going to be spending a lot of money on attorney fees,” says Ulseth.

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division has responded to our request for comment by issuing the following response:

EPD issued a lawful permit to Columbus Water Works containing provisions essential to protect our state water resources and human health. Columbus Water Works’ appeal of its permit will be heard by an administrative law judge at the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings.  Any specific questions regarding that litigation should be directed to the Attorney General’s office.

Kevin Chambers, Georgia Environmental Protection Division

Columbus Water Works says appealing this permit allows for their side of the story to be shared and could take months to complete.

News 3 will be sure to continue to follow this story as it plays out in court.

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