DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Georgia Water Coalition has released its 2018 Dirty Dozen last week — a report that lists places and practices that endanger the state’s water quality. Prominently featured on that list: Gold Creek Foods in the City of Dawsonville and Flat Creek.
The report points to the incident last March when a Gold Creek forklift driver punctured a 55-gallon barrel that contained ferric chloride which flowed into a retaining pond then into Flat Creek. The report states, “two days later, City of Dawsonville workers noticed the creek flowing bright orange and saw dozens of dead fish and traced the problem to Gold Creek Foods.”
The report also states, “The spill killed virtually all aquatic life in Flat Creek for nearly four miles. Crayfish, salamanders and fish littered the orange-tinged water of the creek as it flowed past a local elementary school and residential areas in Dawsonville. Georgia Department of Natural Resources investigators estimated that 8,262 fish perished, including 1,990 Cherokee darters.”
Industrial facilities in Georgia are supposed to have a plan in place to control spills and polluted runoff to prevent tragedies like that at Flat Creek. But, according to the report, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has only two and a half employees responsible for reviewing the stormwater plans at 2,800 facilities.
In the case of Gold Creek Foods in Dawsonville, EPD’s industrial stormwater team had not inspected the facility since 2013. Following the March spill, the inspectors found the area where ferric chloride and other chemicals were stored lacked structures to contain spills and prevent them from flowing to Flat Creek.
According to the report, “numerous complaints about pollution from Gold Creek Foods prompted regional EPD personnel to visit the facility. During one of those visits, the improper storage of chemical drums was noted and the company’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) was discussed. In fact, records show that water monitoring required by the SWPPP and conducted by Gold Creek Foods from 2015-2017 indicated regular violations of clean water benchmarks.”
But, EPD staff in Atlanta with the industrial stormwater team never completed a thorough review of the site. In the end, Gold Creek Foods got little more than a slap on the wrist and Georgia taxpayers were left to pay for the cleanup. The fine for the devastation the company caused to Flat Creek: $15,000!
The Department of Natural Resources personnel spent dozens of hours addressing and investigating the spill. The cost of the fish kill survey alone amounted to nearly $6,000.
Former Dawsonville City Councilman and now Dawson County Commissioner Chris Gaines is all too familiar with Gold Creek Foods habitual offender status.
“If EPD is lacking funds why would they use taxpayer dollars to clean up a mess created by someone else,” Gaines asked. “If GCF did incur some cleanup cost and with the negative PR surrounding this event hopefully lessons were learned.
“Dawson County is blessed to have so many great natural resources. It’s a tragedy that this happened. To me the EPD fine does not seem to effectively match the amount of permanent ecological damage done to the streams. In addition to the fine, all cleanup cost should have been the responsibility of the party that caused the situation in my opinion.”
When Gaines served on city council he often heard water department officials complain about the high density of “slugs” of wastewater that would kill microorganisms in the city’s wastewater treatment ponds.
“They told me they would fine (Gold Creek). But the fines were either not paid or so small it didn’t seem to be a hurdle that was curbing their behavior.”
Now a county commissioner, Gaines said the county has “reached out to the EPD and is setting up meetings to gain a better understanding of responsibilities and we stand ready to assist the city with its efforts to prevent this from happening again. We all should hope that this never happens again and that the EPD will be doing more inspections to ensure that GCF is doing everything possible to prevent situations like this from occurring again.”
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TROUT STOCKING WILL BEGIN EARLIER IN 2017
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (Mar. 7, 2017) – Take advantage of beautiful spring weather and plan a trout fishing trip to the north Georgia Mountains! How about an early trout stocking to sweeten the deal?
The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will cooperatively stock 40,000 trout in Georgia during the week of Mar. 6, giving anglers their first opportunity to harvest some freshly stocked trout in 2017. Regular weekly stockings for the 2017 stocking season begin on Mar. 20, when an additional 70,000 trout will hit the water.
Despite the low stream flows being experienced in north Georgia, the trout stocking program is still aiming to stock one million fish this year.
“With the current spring-like conditions and all trout waters open to fishing year-round, we have decided to stock approximately 40,0000 trout two weeks early,” says WRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson. “Due to the mild winter, we have experienced excellent trout growth in our hatcheries and with the continuing low stream flows, these fish have outgrown the available hatchery space giving us the opportunity to stock a few weeks early this year.”
Some popular stocked streams that will receive trout during this early stocking effort include Cooper Creek in Union County, Tallulah River in Rabun County, Dicks Creek in Lumpkin County, Holly Creek in Murray County, and Johns Creek in Floyd County. The daily limit is eight trout on general regulation trout waters. Anglers are reminded to respect private property rights along streams flowing through private lands and to obtain permission before fishing on private property.
Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license and a trout license to fish in designated trout waters and to fish for or possess trout. Anglers must also possess a wildlife management area license or Georgia Outdoor Recreation Pass (GORP) in order to fish on certain WMAs. Find a list of designated areas at www.georgiawildlife.com/Georgia-Outdoor-Recreational-Pass<http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Georgia-Outdoor-Recreational-Pass> .
Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license to fish in public waters. Where can you get a license? Buy it online (www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com<http://www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com>), at a retail license vendor (list at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes<http://www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes> ) or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
Purchasing a Trout license plate supports Georgia’s trout conservation and management programs. These efforts positively impact trout production, stocking and stream restoration throughout north Georgia. Purchase or find out more at your county tag office.
For the list of stocked trout streams, online versions the Georgia trout stream map, and other trout fishing tips, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout or call (770) 535-5498.
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A division of the
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Management, supervision and leadership fit Bob Bolz, Dawsonville’s new city manager like a glove.
Wednesday was Bolz’s third day on the job and he took time to talk to Fetch Your News about his new position.
“What has impressed me most so far is the quality of people I work with,” he said. “From the city staff to the elected officials, everyone wants to do the best job they can for the citizens. I’m old school where we were taught if you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late. I’m a firm believer in customer service and our employees are too.”
Bolz, 59, spent more than 30 years with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He oversaw operations at Amicalola Park and Lodge, one of the state’s largest parks, for 18 years. In 2004, he was promoted to a regional management position where supervised operation of some 30 state parks.
“I retired in 2009, but I was bored and I had done all the Honey-dos we could afford,” Bolz said. So, he was ready to get back to work when Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle recruited him to serve as training director for the sheriff’s office.
Serving the sheriff’s office was one thing, but the chance to serve an entire city is another. “Serving people has always been my passion, so when the position of city manager opened up, that excited me,” he said. “I was ready to get back to where my heart is.”
Bolz said there are some major projects on the drawing board in 2017 that will require his attention, including the Main Street revitalization project and the new park being constructed behind city hall.
By year’s end, however, he said he wants to meet with city council members to listen to what their plans are and to share with them his plans.
His predecessor, David Headley, had begun hosting a series of town hall meetings and that is something he wants to continue.
“I’m a firm believer in listening to your customers,” he said. “The closer government can get to the people, the better things will be. I think that is what happened in this last (presidential) election. People got tired of government not listening to them.”
Bolz earned a bachelor’s degree in recreational administration from North Georgia College & State University. He lives in Dawsonville and is married to Robinson Elementary para-pro Xarissa Bolz. The couple has three sons: Robert Bolz, Josh Bolz and Cody McGinnis.
Numbering the 24th week of severe drought in Northwest Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division has issued a statement regarding water restrictions and other drought responses in our area.
Most of Georgia is now under some form of Drought Fighting Restriction with the exception of some of our very southernmost counties. You can enlarge the map to see exactly which countries are affected by the increased Level 1 and Level 2 Restrictions.
These State set restrictions detail when you can water your outdoor plants and landscape based upon your address. A two-day restriction dictates “even-numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. Odd numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m.”
This announcement comes on the heels of the announcements that the smoke cover in our area is expected to continue throughout the near future as authorities continue to battle the raging wildfires across the South East, with the Rough Ridge Fire being the major blaze in North Georgia.
Along with the drought restrictions, many counties are also declaring burn bans for residents to aid in fighting fires and drought.
Check out the full Press Release below to see more about the restrictions and what activities are fully prohibited under the EPD’s Authority.