I probably should give you a clue as to who I am. Who am I. . . huh? Well, that would depend on whom you were asking. I suppose for the purposes of this blog and this organization, I am someone who cares deeply about the issues facing Georgia and our nation. I will most likely focus on the environment, basically because I was a biology major. My emphasis was in water ecology and fish biology. Now I am a laboratory analyst for a water department. I adore water and streams. I would like to focus only on our most important resource but other environmental issues are important too. However, luckily, today I can comment on my favorite issue.
I am going to discus life versus dead people. Senate Bill 510 passed Wednesday. This bill basically allows the depletion of our stream buffers. Here is how the Georgia Environmental Action Network characterized the bill.
"Senate Bill 510, sponsored by Sen. Chip Pearson, currently focuses on the state’s 150 foot buffer, which applies to waterways upstream of a drinking water reservoir or public drinking water intake. These buffers are larger than others in the state in order to give our drinking water supplies the highest level of protection. . .
Senate Bill 510 would rollback protections in three ways:
1) it would allow landowners to destroy the buffers if they get a variance;
2) it would allow local governments to adopt a storm water ordinance instead of the 150 foot buffer; and
3) it would allow single family homes and associated structures to be built in the buffer without the need for a variance.
These changes represent significant problems. The variance procedure established is not adequate to protect small water supply watersheds. It is difficult, if not impossible, to develop a storm water ordinance that is as protective as a natural buffer, as EPD Director Dr. Carol Couch has confirmed. Regarding the single family exemption, there are no limitations on the size of the house or the number or type of additional structures that can be built in the buffer. One could build a 6000 sq. ft. house with a six car garage, a tennis court, and a swimming pool, all inside the buffer.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee has approved Senate Bill 510, after its leaders were informed about the importance of stream buffers to water quality by scientists from the University of Georgia. Leaders of the Senate Natural Resources Committee called this unchallenged scientific evidence “mere theory,” and “speculation.” The Committee’s chairman stated that he was “uncomfortable” accepting the evidence. "
Essentially, building in our 150 ft. stream buffer areas will now be permitted. You may wonder why this is important. Well, the buffer zone helps to deplete the amount of pollution that actually enters our streams. All of the oil, gas, pesticides, fertilizers, cleaning products, and other such contaminants are absorbed by the ground and plants throughout the entire buffer area. Shrinking this area will mean that these contaminants will end up in your drinking water table. Not only will this make our drinking water unsafe but will also cause harm to all the aquatic life in the area. Further more, you always live downstream from someone or some developer and now our protection is being striped from us. Say hello to killing fish, beavers, insects (cute ones too), otters, crawfish and possibly affecting our health too.
Now, on that note, yesterday the senate passed bill 606 creating buffer zones for funerals. In an article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution,
“The bill would make it illegal to engage in disorderly or disruptive behavior at funerals and would prohibit any type of assemble or demonstration within 500 feet of a funeral one hour before, after, and during the service”
500 feet!!!!! First of all, wait . . . lets just read that again 500 feet!!! We are shrinking our stream buffers from 150 feet to what ever a local government deems appropriate. That’s right, you're correct, our water supply and our living endemic species and humans now have less than 150 feet of protection from harmful contaminants but dead people get 500 feet.
Secondly, now let me preface this by saying I am very respectful and mindful of people mourning and the dead. Although it is tasteless and tactless to demonstrate at a funeral, I believe that is a far worse crime to force all Georgians to drink polluted water.
Thirdly, we are not even sure if this law is constitutional. . . the First Amendment ?!
In a nutshell, in the span of a week, we made it harder for humans and animals alike to survive in an already polluted world while protecting a dead person from hearing people protest about what that dead person believed.