By Terry Dickson

The Georgia River Network’s 2016 list of potential and existing polluters, called the Dirty Dozen, includes the proposed Camden Spaceport, the Broadhurst Landfill in Wayne County and offshore exploration for oil and gas.

Coal ash from electrical generation plants showed up frequently in the list, most notably the Republic Service’s plans to build a rail yard at its Broadhurst landfill southwest of Jesup to haul in the ash by the boxcar load and bury it there.

Millions of tons of the ash is stored in impoundments at power plants throughout the nation, some of which have failed and polluted streams. The Environmental Protection Agency wants the impoundments closed and the coal ash moved to lined landfills, such as Broadhurst.

“This year’s report highlights the real, human costs of dirty energy production in Georgia’s communities,” said Joe Cook, advocacy and communication coordinator for the Coosa River Basin Initiative in northwest Georgia.

Toxic chemicals from coal ash has been detected in groundwater in rivers, Cook said in a release, as risky proposals for transporting and extracting oil and gas endanger water supplies, wildlife and property rights.

The River Network asserts that chemicals associated with coal ash already have shown up in Wayne County groundwater even as Republic seeks a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to build the rail yard that would enable it to dramatically increase the amount it receives and buries at Broadhurst.

Georgia Power Co. has said it will not send any of its 80 million tons of stored coal ash to Broadhurst, and Duke Energy said it will not send any from its impoundments in South Carolina.

Neil Herring, who handles legislative affairs for the Sierra Club in Georgia, has told the Times-Union that can only mean Broadhurst has potential customers elsewhere along the Eastern Seaboard.

The River Network also listed Camden County’s pursuit of a spaceport at a former chemical plant at Harrietts Bluff where NASA once tested rocket engines. The county already has spent $3 million on the project and committed $6 million more, the River Network said.

Noisy launches would have an impact along the coast in the area but most notably on Cumberland Island National Seashore, which is visited by 60,000 people each year, the River Network said.

Blastoffs aren’t the only concern in the area. The River Network also said that underwater blasts for offshore oil and gas exploration would endanger marine life. Kingsland and St. Marys have gone on record opposing the exploration.

Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405