Muscogee County Superior Court affirms protection of iconic Chattahoochee River
ATLANTA —This week the Muscogee County Superior Court issued a ruling in support of an administrative law judge’s previous decision in favor of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in the Columbus Water Works’ (CWW) petition challenging the legality of its new combined sewer system permit.
“We are thrilled that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings, and Muscogee County Superior Court have all agreed that a stronger permit is necessary for our state’s largest river system,” said April Lipscomb, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Lipscomb adds, “The Chattahoochee River remains an important ecosystem not only for wildlife, but surrounding communities, businesses, and nature enthusiasts alike. Protecting the health of the river system is paramount to maintaining clean water for everyone who enjoys this natural treasure.”
“For decades, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has advocated for clean water through transparent monitoring and proper treatment of wastewater discharges across the basin,” said Jason Ulseth, Riverkeeper and lead advocate for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. “We are pleased that the Muscogee County Superior Court agrees that CWW must do what every other permittee in Georgia does and comply with discharge limits for the amount of bacteria it sends to the river. Upholding this permit advances our mission to protect the health and safety of everyone recreating in this heavily used stretch of the river.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center intervened on behalf of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in the dispute in January 2021, which involved the level of treatment required for mixed sewage and stormwater discharges by CWW.
A report released in 2016 by American Rivers ranked the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin as the most endangered river in the U.S.
In September 2021, a state court ruled in favor of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division in the Columbus Water Works’ lawsuit challenging the legality of its new combined sewer system permit. The decision requires CWW to protect the Chattahoochee River, an iconic water source where tens of thousands of people fish, boat, and swim year-round.
Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s mission is to educate, advocate and secure the protection and stewardship of the Chattahoochee River, including its lakes, tributaries and watershed, in order to restore and conserve their ecological health for the people and wildlife that depend on the river system and in recognition of the important ecosystem functions provided throughout the region and planet. Established in 1994, the nonprofit organization is the 11th licensed program of more than 350 within the international Waterkeeper Alliance. Since its inception, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has now grown to include more than 10,000 passionate members.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 170, including 90 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. southernenvironment.org