Chattahoochee Riverkeeper On Patrol

Updates from your local watershed

American Sealcoat

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In 2014, CRK’s tracking team discovered oily black sludge seeping out of a storm drain and into a small tributary next to the river.

“That was one of the worst things I’ve seen in eight years of doing this type of work,” remembers Riverkeeper Jason Ulseth. Our team traced the chemicals back to American Sealcoat (AS), an asphalt sealant manufacturer.

Operating without an industrial storm water permit, in clear violation of the Clean Water Act, AS was repeatedly and intentionally dumping toxic waste down a nearby storm drain less than 1000 feet from the Chattahoochee River.

They were definitely aware that there was some sort of material going into that concrete drain that wasn’t supposed to, because they were always talking about it,” recalls a former AS employee under oath. “Oh don’t let anybody see that or don’t let [the local competitor] see you guys dumping it into the hole because we’ll get a $30,000 fine for a spill.”

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper tried to work with AS to get the site cleaned up but they refused, leaving us no choice but to pursue a legal path. On August 13, Judge Evans ordered American Sealcoat to pay a $10 Million penalty to the U.S. treasury.

In October 2015, CRK reached a settlement agreement with property owner M&K Warehouses, LLC. M&K has worked to reverse the environmental harm caused by American Sealcoat, spending more than $500,000 on remediation, restoration and stabilization work and will also contribute $90,000 to local environmental projects to keep the Chattahoochee River clean and safe.

CRK is pleased with this resolution and that M&K agreed to a thorough clean-up of the affected property- we are assured that future stormwater runoff from the site will not carry any further contaminants to our beloved Chattahoochee River. This settlement agreement shows that cooperation is much more effective and successful than conflict and sends a clear message to other industrial operators and property owners that compliance with water quality laws is not optional.

The Blueway Trail Takes Shape

The Chattahoochee Valley Blueway will soon be a reality. Encompassing a 52-mile stretch of river between West Point Lake and Columbus, this exciting project will bring much needed attention and economic benefit to a part of the Chattahoochee River once dominated by the textile industry.

Paddlers, fishing enthusiasts, and wildlife watchers will all delight in the opportunities provided by the new Blueway – which already has a 2.4 mile whitewater course in downtown Columbus, plenty of flat-water paddling, and will soon include improved launch points, portages, and campsites. Led by The Trust for Public Land, this public-private partnership aims to help the surrounding communities rediscover the river as a place for recreation, ecotourism and a resource worth preserving for future generations to come.

CRK Partners With American Rivers On Stormwater Rules

The Atlanta Regional Commission is updating its Manual for Stormwater Management in Georgia (Blue Book) and CRK is working with American Rivers to assist ARC in the process. The Blue Book provides guidance to local governments on establishing stormwater regulations for developers.

The current Blue Book relies on outdated technology and ineffective detention ponds, leaving downstream communities at risk after heavy rains To fix these problems, we are urging ARC and other stakeholders to move towards green infrastructure as the preferred method of stormwater management in the new Blue Book. Green infrastructure allows rainwater to soak into ground, resolving many of the pollution, flooding, and water supply issues associated with land development.

Atlanta Enacts Energy/Water Audit Ordinance

On April 20, Atlanta’s City Council approved a commercial energy and water audit ordinance, requiring select commercial building owners to track the building’s energy and water use.

Atlanta is among the first cities in the nation to adopt such an ordinance; the regulation is expected to add to reductions already generated through the voluntary Better Buildings Challenge. CRK will work with the City and other partners to help develop water audit criteria for implementation.

New Trail Improves Headwaters River Access

The Friends of Gainesville Parks, Greenways Board, and CRK are working to implement a canoe/kayak paddle trail that will connect four Gainesville city parks on Lake Lanier.

This trail is an extension of the Upper Chattahoochee River Water Trail, which currently starts at the river’s confluence with Sautee Creek in White County and ends at Clarks Bridge Park in Gainesville. Adding approximately 14 miles to the existing 36.2 mile water trail, this new section will allow users to launch from local parks and go north to Don Carter State Park or south to River Forks Park (Hall County) for tent camping at beautiful sites overlooking Lake Lanier. Gainesville Parks and Recreation is currently working on signage and maps for each of the paddle launch sites.