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Coastal rivers among state's dirtiest waterways
Major rivers to the south and north of Brunswick are among the dirtiest in the state, the Georgia Water Coalition says.

The Altamaha and Satilla rivers were named to the coalition's second annual Georgia's Dirty Dozen, a list of waterways facing issues caused by man. The coalition is made up of more than 180 organizations across the state, including sportsmen clubs, conservation organizations, professional associations and religious groups.

The Altamaha, which ranked sixth on the list, made it because of discharges from the Rayonier Pulp Mill in Jesup, according to the coalition.

"For more than a half century, Rayonier's Jesup pulp mill has discharged noxious waste into the state's largest river...that fouls the river for miles, completely altering its character by turning the water black and pulpy and emitting a rancid odor," the coalition states in its findings.

Fishermen complain of a pulp mill smell coming from fish caught in areas where the discharge is heavy, the report states.

As a local river and the third largest contributor of freshwater to the Atlantic Ocean on North America's eastern shore, the Altamaha and its contamination from metals and other chemicals is of great concern for Deborah Sheppard, executive director of the Altamaha Riverkeeper.

Sheppard said now is the time for the state Environmental Protection Division to put its foot down and force Rayonier to make a change, especially since the mill is in the process of renewing its wastewater discharge permit.

"These are things that can be taken care of by modernizing its water quality system," Sheppard said. "It is a development that needs to be forced on Rayonier by the EPD."

She expects a new permit to be issued by the end of the year.

South of Glynn County, the Satilla River is dealing with a different type of issue.

A century ago, a half-mile channel was dug through coastal marshland to move timber to market via barges on Dover Creek and the Satilla. Today, the channel, known as Noyes Cut, is still there and wreaking havoc on migrating fish, blue crabs and boating routes, according the coalition.

Filling the obsolete channel would help restore populations of striped bass, herring, eel and shad, the coalition said.

Although the Army Corps of Engineers recommended filling the channel in the 1980s, no action has been taken, according to the coalition.

The dirty dozen

The Georgia Water Coalition's 2012 Dirty Dozen are: 1. Ogeechee River

2. South River

3. Flat Creek

4. Flint River

5. The proposed Richland Creek Reservoir

6. Altamaha River

7. Chattahoochee River

8. Satilla River

9. Allen Creek

10. Tired Creek

11. Savannah River

12. Patchilta Creek

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