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Riverkeeper keeps finger on Flint’s pulse

Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper, says everyone must “pick sides” in important areas, and he is not in favor of a regulatory system that allows fish to be killed in more than 85 miles of a river with no punishment for the perpetrators.

Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper, says everyone must “pick sides” in important areas, and he is not in favor of a regulatory system that allows fish to be killed in more than 85 miles of a river with no punishment for the perpetrators.

ALBANY, Ga. — Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper, began his address to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County with an observation and a question.

“Many of our countrymen at the far left and right of politics want government out of their lives completely,” Rogers said. “Perhaps we should ask ourselves, ‘Is that really such a good idea?’”

During his address Monday, Rogers said that he believes many of the people who would reduce the size of government have agendas for personal or corporate gain. Specifically, he warned against the illumination, reduction or non-enforcement of regulations protecting downstream water from pollution or waste.

Rogers cited an 85-mile fish kill along the Ogeechee River in May of this year a 15-mile kill down the Commissioner River in Wilkinson County and a 20-mile kill on Brier Creek, a tributary of the Savannah River. According to Rogers, the killed fish represent industrial pollution resulting from inadequate regulation.

In the Ogeechee River case, Rogers said, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper is suing the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for “entering into a consent order with a textile firm that failed to enforce state laws and regulations.”

According to Rogers, the textile firm was given a “slap on the wrist” that required the firm to spend $1 million either in fines or “environmental mitigation.”

“It was doing them a favor,” Rogers said, “The company will spend the million dollars and launch a campaign next year about the good things they did to help the river.”

Rogers told Kiwanis Club members that everyone must “pick sides in this world” and the growing battle over water is no exception.

“I’m not in favor of a regulatory system that allows 85 miles of fish to be killed on a river, and does not punish the perpetrators of those kinds of actions,” he said.

Rogers said that there has never been a major industrial incident on the Flint River, but he sees a “pattern” of growing disrespect for the environment in favor of corporate profits.

“The politicians say we environmentalists are unreasonable,” Rogers said, “They say we should be willing to strike a ‘balance’ with industry over water. I tell them they’re right — we have to have a balance and that we are nowhere close to it now.”