WHY SAVING THE SAVANNAH MAKES DOLLARS AND SENSE
By Tonya Bonitaitbus
There is no doubt about it, the Savannah River is the lifeblood of our communities. She stretches over 400 miles, forms the state boundary between Georgia and South Carolina, and drains more than 10,000sq miles of land. Her reach is almost perfectly cut in half, the top half largely lakes, including Thurmond, the largest lake east of the Mississippi. Her bottom half is free flowing, is largely industrial, and where she meets the ocean lies the 4th biggest port in the United States. The Savannah binds those of us relying on her waters, making us reliant on those upstream to care for the water before it reaches our houses, and those downstream are just as reliant on us to make sure we are being equally as responsible. Our economies are inseparably tied to the river; our drinking water comes from her, and for many, her water supplies us with our recreational activities. Without the Savannah River Augusta wouldn’t exist, and making sure she stays healthy and clean is not only the right thing to do, it is unquestionably something we must do, our health and our economies rely on it.
In just one day, The Savannah supplies over 1.4 million people with fresh drinking water, receives and dilutes over 18,000 tons of waste from industries and municipalities, and carries over 7000 containers through her port. Her health is directly tied to our economies, when we produce products we dump pollutants, and when we dump too much, the river and fish become polluted, which then requires the dumping to decrease. We have seen that happen in the last couple of months with the local chlorine manufacturer, Olin’s announcement that they will cease mercury use by 2012, and with the EPA calling for a 70-90% reduction in pollutant loads into the Savannah. Unfortunately, we have over polluted the river with mercury, the fish aren’t safe to eat, and we have dumped so many pollutants into the water that oxygen in the harbor is becoming hard to come by.
It’s cheaper to treat clean water. One of the greatest things about a river is its innate ability to clean itself. A river’s wetlands and swamps serve as filters, its ground water recharges push in clean water, and the bugs, plants and fish eat and filter out pollutants. The longer a river flows, the cleaner it can become, and clean water is cheaper for all of us to use. Our industries rely on the river to dilute and clean their waste, and we rely on the river to supply us with healthy and safe drinking water. Much of the pollutant load into the river does come from “point sources” such as the industries, but a large percentage of the pollutants that enter our waterways come from “non-point” sources such as runoff from our roadways, storm drains, or backyards.
The Savannah is a public resource; she belongs to all of us, and with ownership comes responsibility. Many of us work at the industries, or supporting businesses that rely on the Savannah for their water and waste dilution, and all of us rely on her water for our homes. She is the 4th most toxic in the United States because of overuse and the use of outdated technology. It is vital to our economy that we ensure the health of the Savannah. A dirty river is one that can’t be used to its fullest potential and taking steps to ensure her health has to be something we all require. It’s not just Augusta relying on the Savannah for its health, wellbeing, and economy; it’s the other 1 million people that reside along her banks as well.
Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP)
Brier Creek Fish Kill
Reedy Creek Kaolin Spill
Broad River Valley Farms
Olin Mercury Contamination
Abandoned Boat and
Large Debris Removal
Rivers Alive Cleanups