Controlling industrial stormwater runoff is a daunting challenge throughout the Chattahoochee River Basin. Our watershed is home to thousands of industrial facilities that operate equipment and store materials outside, which are exposed to precipitation. For example, food-processing facilities may discharge bacteria; auto salvage yards may discharge oil and grease; metals manufacturing may discharge zinc, arsenic and chromium; and agricultural chemical production may discharge nutrients.
The state Environmental Protection Division issues a permit to regulate the discharge of pollutants in stormwater to our rivers, lakes and streams from 28 types of industrial facilities. This permit sets requirements for best management practices, inspections, water quality monitoring and reporting that industrial facilities must do.
How CRK Makes a Difference
CRK has found that hundreds of industrial operations in the Chattahoochee River watershed are not fully complying with clean water laws. We notify each industry that we identify that it may be discharging without a permit in violation of the Clean Water Act, or that it may be failing to meet the terms of the permit. Our goal: achieve compliance from 100 industrial facilities by 2017.
If you see an industry discharging potentially polluted stormwater into our waterways, report it online or by calling Jason Ulseth at 404-352-9828 ext. 16.
Gainesville Poultry Plant Captures Pollution
Flat Creek originates in midtown Gainesville and flows six miles through city neighborhoods, passing by schools and churches before entering into Lake Lanier. Sadly, it’s one of the state’s most impaired waterways due to extremely high concentrations of E. coli (bacteria) and other harmful pathogens.
Fortunately, CRK has been on the case to improve water quality in Flat Creek.
In 2012, CRK began a long-term monitoring program to assess the degree of the creek’s impairment. During rain events, we found bacteria levels in Flat Creek were more than 1,000 times the level recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Our findings were not surprising for a creek running through the “Chicken Capital of the World.”
Bacteria levels in stormwater runoff from poultry processing plants were a significant contributor to the impairment. When attempts to work proactively with poultry processing companies were not successful, CRK turned to the power of the media and the authority of local, state and federal agencies. Ultimately, the EPA took enforcement action against two of the largest chicken processing plants in Gainesville.
In 2016, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation was issued a $65,850 fine by the EPA as a result of violations to the federal Clean Water Act. This enforcement action mandated that the company implement a suite of corrective actions to control its stormwater discharges.
To address its stormwater, Pilgrim’s hired a full-time Complex Environmental Manager, who conducted a comprehensive site assessment of the company’s stormwater system. In 2016, Pilgrim’s invested more than $500,000 to upgrade its stormwater infrastructure, including installing a 70,000-gallon storage tank and a pump station, which will capture the critical first flush of a rain event from the facility and store the water until it can be pre-treated onsite before being sent to the city’s sewage treatment plant.
“In addition to Pilgrim’s important efforts to capture and treat its stormwater onsite, one of the best things to come from this hard work is the transparent and positive relationship we have developed with Pilgrim’s and their management,” said Dale Caldwell, Headwaters Watershed Protection Specialist at CRK.
“We are committed to being better stewards of Gainesville’s aquatic resources and look forward to working with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in the future,” said Tony Pyle, Complex Environmental Manager at Pilgrim’s.
CRK will continue our monitoring efforts on Flat Creek in an effort to address remaining sources of water pollution.