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Brunswick’s water quality lands on Georgia group’s Dirty Dozen list

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – The Georgia Water Coalition named Glynn County to its 2019 Dirty Dozen report Thursday, considering the water quality of the coastal Georgia area among the 12 worst offender in water quality.

Two local bodies of water in Brunswick area made the list: the Altamaha River and the St. Simons Sound.

All eyes have been on the St. Simons Sound since September, when the cargo ship Golden Ray capsized leaking fuel into the sound. The pollutants have covered roughly 31 miles of coast and in the mashes.

“Prior to this incident the St. Simons Sound in particular … nothing there would warrant that type of attention from the dirty dozen list,” said Fletcher Sams, the executive director of the Altamaha Riverkeeper.

Oyster harvesting has already closed for the St. Simons Sound and the Riverkeeper continues to test the oysters for harmful pollutants. If you’re looking to harvest oysters, you’ll have to travel north or south of the sound.

The Riverkeeper are waiting to see a salvage plan to take apart the Golden Ray, but fear it will cause more harm in the end.

The plan is to cut apart the ship and remove it piece by piece.

“If it’s cut with a cutting wire it will literally cut through the ship and the cars,” Fletcher said.

If a cofferdam is used while they dismantle the ship it will help immensely with keeping unwanted pollutants from washing up along the coast.

“You would be able to fully contain the area around the ship while you dismantle it,” Fletcher said.

The Altamaha River made the top of the Dirty Dozen report due to the pollution from the Rayonier Advanced Materials chemical pulp mill. Fletcher said this is an ongoing pollution problem that has turned the clear river water into black murky water.

Over the past few years, the Altamaha Riverkeeper have worked with the company involved to come up with a solution to the pollutants invading the water.

“We’re also working with them by sitting around the table and they have made some improvements,” Fletcher said. “But we still have a way to go.”