Reflection written by The Rev. Dcn. Leeann Culbreath, GIPL Outreach Coordinator for South & Coastal Georgia.
“All politics is local,” the saying goes. While this is only partially true, it’s important wisdom as the national political scene stirs up multiple controversies daily. Many of us, including me, are spending more time than ever in front of screens and on phones responding to sweeping changes on the national landscape. This is important and needed work, but we might end up missing the trees for the forest.
Or rather, we might miss new opportunities to protect clean water in Georgia amid a sea of global uncertainty.
In recent weeks, state and local leaders have made important strides to protect our communities, especially communities in South Georgia, from coal ash pollution. Coal ash is the toxic byproduct ofcoal burned for electricity and contains arsenic, mercury, lead, radioactive elements and over a dozen other heavy metals. These toxins can contribute to cancer, neurological problems, birth defects, and other health issues.
For decades, coal ash has piled up in unlined “ponds” or lagoons near Georgia’s waterways, wells, and communities, and above our pristine aquifer, the drinking water source for many Georgians.
To comply with a federal rule, and as our country shifts away from coal to renewables, Georgia Power is now working to close all of its 29 ash ponds at 11 coal plants across the state. Also, utility companies in other states are eyeing South Georgia as a potential recipient of their coal ash waste.
This means potentially moving coal ash by truck or rail long distances across Georgia for permanent storage. Because coal ash is currently classified as “nonhazardous” by the EPA, it can even be moved to municipal landfills. This has already happened in some areas of South Georgia, such as Wayne County, where toxic coal ash was dumped without public knowledge or additional safety measures, and a known leak was not reported to the public.
Last week, Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) announced his plans to bring forward legislation to strengthen protections should coal ash be moved to existing or new landfills. The City of Brunswick’s Commissioners recently passed a resolution voicing their concerns about coal ash dumping and the need for stronger state regulations to protect local water. GIPL applauds and supports these efforts.
All major faith traditions consider water to be a sacred gift from the Creator, given for our life, health, and enjoyment. It is time for people of faith in Georgia to focus on this gift—one we receive again and again every day but so often take for granted in our busy lives.
Every time you turn on a faucet, offer a prayer of thanks. Then put “feet” to those prayers by sharing your gratitude and concerns with family, friends, your faith community, and local and state leaders. Stay tuned to this blog and GIPL’s action alerts for specific opportunities to protect the gift of water from coal ash pollution.Tags: advocacy, clean water, coal ash, legislation, local politics, South Georgia, toxic waste, water