ATLANTA — Local environmental and social justice organizations are calling on the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District to protect the South River and other local natural resources.
During calls on April 14 and May 12, 2023 between DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors and the DeKalb County’s Planning and Sustainability Department, a number of violations of state environmental laws at several sites across the county were discussed. The calls revealed a pattern of inconsistent monitoring of active construction sites, clear cutting of trees without prior authorization or remediation plans, and a lack of transparency regarding erosion and sediment control issues at the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center construction site.
"Not allowing Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors to enter the prison farm site is a violation of the Memorandum of Agreement between DeKalb County and the district," states Jackie Echols, board president of South River Watershed Alliance. "Keep in mind, the purpose of inspecting the site is to ensure that the Atlanta Police Foundation is adhering to the requirements of the state’s Erosion and Sedimentation Act, which is enforceable through GA EPD. As long as the regulated can violate the law without penalty, and those responsible for enforcing the law do so at their discretion, then the law is effectively useless."
On June 7, 2023, six organizations sent a letter to Dell MacGregor, Chair of the DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation District, in which they list major concerns regarding DeKalb County’s ongoing violations of state environmental regulations. They proposed four remedial actions that the county must take to be in compliance with its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Georgia Environmental Protection Department (GA EPD).
The organizations asked the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District to take the following actions:
- Report to the GA EPD the concerns they have voiced during their recent calls with DeKalb County;
- Request the GA EPD suspend DeKalb County’s certification as a Local Issuing Authority (LIA) pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 12-7-8 as the county is out of compliance with its MOA;
- Conduct an overview of DeKalb County to ensure it is in compliance with the Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act and the State General Permit; and
- Return DeKalb County to compliance.
"The allegations raised in these calls are troubling and lead our organizations to question whether this public safety training center project is being allowed to cut corners and ignore important environmental laws and regulations,” said Gina Webber, director of the Sierra Club Georgia Chapter. “DeKalb County must take any and all steps to ensure this project is in compliance so communities nearby and downstream are protected."
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