Yellow River Water TrailIn recent years we have been attending Georgia Water Coalition meetings and connecting with water advocates from around the state.  We formed our non-profit in 2014 (under the excellent guidance of Georgia River Network) and created our motto of “Enjoy, Share and Protect”.  As a group of volunteer kayakers organizing to enjoy and share our Yellow River with the community, we had NO IDEA how important the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) would become to us.

“Protect” is a huge part of our focus.   In February 2015, we learned that not only does Newton County have a landfill on the banks of the Yellow River, but it was about to be expanded to a 14 story PRIVATE REGIONAL landfill with a “vertical expansion permit” already obtained from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).  We were astounded. In addition, we learned that Newton County has had GROUNDWATER contamination from this landfill since 2012 due to 30 year old unlined trash cells and is under an EPD “corrective action plan” for cleanup.

Overwhelmed and discouraged, we were extremely fortunate to have the support from our friends at GWC.   Immediately Greenlaw assisted pro-bono by issuing a letter asking the Newton County Commissioners to delay the privatization vote and allow the public ample time to review all information about the proposed landfill changes.  This request was honored by the Commissioners and allowed local citizens time to organize and oppose the proposed landfill changes.  The landfill was not sold to a private company but the county maintains the vertical expansion permit and plans to expand the landfill in the very near future. Sadly, as of 2017, zero progress has been made on the cleanup at the contamination site.

Over the last two years, we have come to learn and understand that protecting our local river involves connecting with not only our frontline County Commissioners, but also State and Federal Legislators.  We could NOT have done this without attending the Georgia Water Coalition Capitol Conservation Day events and attending the GWC partner meetings at the Georgia Wildlife Federation.  I am now on a first-name basis with many of my representatives and they care about what is happening on the Yellow River. GWC helped make that possible.  Yellow River Water Trail is actively partnering with the GWC to protect Georgia’s groundwater and to make sure that our Hazardous Waste Fees are being used to clean up contamination like we are experiencing in Newton County.

The Georgia Water Coalition is VITAL to our work to protect the Yellow River Water Trail.   We truly appreciate the guidance, emails, texts, connections and full support we received from everyone at GWC.   The Yellow River Water Trail runs 53 miles from Gwinnett to Newton.  Please come see our beautiful slice of Georgia’s natural beauty. We look forward to seeing you on the Yellow River! 

Tonya Bechtler Yellow River Water Trail

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