Dec 15, 2021 - News

Georgia Water Coalition releases 2021 'Dirty Dozen' list

An elevated photo of the Flint River, a metro Atlanta waterway that advocates say deserves better protection from pollution
The Flint River near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Photo courtesy of Hannah Palmer/Finding the Flint

Spills from the world’s second-busiest airport and runoff from a popular mixed-use development are putting metro Atlanta rivers and streams under strain, according to an annual roundup of Georgia’s waterways from environmental advocates.

Why it matters: The state’s rivers, lakes, and coast are vital for the health of local ecosystems, outdoor recreation, and water quality and supply.

The details: For the past 11 years, members of the Georgia Water Coalition have nominated waterways or threats to waterways for the so-called “Dirty Dozen.”

  • Rather than list Georgia’s most polluted places, the coalition digs into the “policies, politics, and issues” that threaten the state's waters.

The winners: Five issues are making a return to the list, with seven additions. They include:

  • Flint River: This waterway flows under the Atlanta airport, and jet fuel, sewage, and de-icing fluid spills can make their way into the river, contributing to fish deaths, according to the coalition.
  • Whitewater Creek: Residents in Fayette County have filed a lawsuit against the Trilith mixed-use development over alleged sediment runoff incidents that muddy up the creek and nearby lake, the report says.
  • Conasauga and Oostanaula Rivers: A water utility in northwest Georgia located downstream of industrial users upgraded its system to remove “forever chemicals” from the water, according to the coalition.

An ATL spokesperson tells Axios that airport exceeds state and federal notification requirements and the airport's capital improvement projects include advances in sewage, fuel, and de-icing infrastructure systems.  

A Trilith spokesperson tells Axios that the development is committed to being a good environmental steward but could not comment on specifics in the report due to pending litigation.

What's next: Coalition members urge people who want to help clean up the rivers to get involved via the coalition's website.

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