Georgia releases draft permits to send 6.6M gallons of water per day to Hyundai site

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Georgia environmental officials have released long-awaited draft permits for four wells expected to pump more than 6.6 million gallons of water per day to Hyundai Motor Company’s electric-vehicle manufacturing site near Savannah.

The move comes two weeks after local agreements were finalized to draw water from the Floridan Aquifer in Bulloch County and send it to Hyundai’s nearly 2,500-acre complex in Bryan County.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division said it will accept comments on the proposed permits until Aug. 20 and will host a public meeting, 6 to 9 p.m., Aug. 13 at Southeast Bulloch High School, 9184 Brooklet-Denmark Road, Brooklet, Georgia.

Along with the drafts, EPD released a 15-page summary of public comments and responses related to proposed conditions to be included in the permits.

Among those requirements, as expected, is the establishment of a fund to financially assist property owners within a five-mile radius of the Interstate 16-Georgia Route 119 interchange whose private wells are affected by the aquifer’s projected drop in depth of up to 19 feet.

Bryan and Bulloch commissioners agreed last week to create the mitigation fund, with each county initially contributing $250,000.  EPD added that the fund “may include contributions from other entities,” but did not single any out. Some critics of the project have insisted that Hyundai should be aiding the effort.

The permits also would require both counties to publish a list of state-licensed well drillers and pump installers qualified to “investigate alleged significant impacts to existing wells.”

“If an investigator finds that a significant impact to an existing water well was caused by the Floridan Aquifer drawdown from the permitted withdrawals,” EPD says in the document, “the fund … shall be used to mitigate, in a timely manner, the specific issues of the affected party.”

Reaching a boil: Hyundai wells fuel water war between Bulloch County residents, leaders

Wells within a “cone of depression” where the water is extracted from the aquifer could experience as much as a 15-foot decrease in water depth, EPD projected.  That could affect whether well pumps are in water or dry air.

The designated mitigation zone encompasses areas where wells are projected to drop at least 10 feet, EPD said in a response to public comments.

Also as expected, the state is giving Bryan and Bulloch counties 25 years to tap new sources of water for the Hyundai site such as the Ogeechee or Savannah rivers or even an expensive desalination facility to treat saltwater.

“The Floridan aquifer groundwater withdrawals authorized by this permit must be reduced in equal quantity to the amount of alternate water capacity available upon completion and operation of the necessary infrastructure to deliver surface water or other non-Floridan aquifer alternative water to the (Hyundai site) and associated developments,” the draft says.

The quarter-century window reflects the complexity of establishing new water sources while withdrawals from the aquifer are tightly controlled because of saltwater intrusion in the Savannah area.

But the counties will have little time to wait in planning for a transition from the aquifer.

Within six months of EPD’s approval of the permits and before the wells begin sending water to the Hyundai site, the counties are directed to submit a report that includes:

  • Potential alternate sources of water to replace the 6.6 million gallons per day.

  • An “initial prioritization and delineation of these alternate resources in terms of ready deliverability.”

  • A projection of what areas will be served by the new water sources.

  • Goals and milestones to be marked during the transition away from aquifer water.

  • Potential funding for planning and developing the related infrastructure.

‘No legal basis for denying’

In the comment-and-answer document, EPD also addressed suggestions that it should reject the new wells.

“There is no legal basis for denying these permit applications provided that certain conditions are included consistent with Georgia requirements,” EPD said. “The review process involves assessing whether the amount of withdrawal requested is reasonable, whether the source has the capacity to provide the requested amounts, whether there are impacts to the resources or other users, and what mitigation measures can be put in place to mitigate such impacts.”

Hyundai’s agreement with Georgia and the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority stipulates that Bryan County will provide water and sewer service to the Hyundai site. But Bryan is prevented by the state from extracting more water from the Floridan Aquifer. 

Under its agreement, Bryan County will initially pay Bulloch County up to $3 million per year for water from the wells.

John Deem covers climate change and the environment in coastal Georgia. He can be reached at 912-652-0213 or jdeem@gannett.com. 

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia gives first look at water permits for Hyundai EV site



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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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