Bulloch County Commissioners are asking for time and patience as they further negotiate the Hyundai Metaplant water contract between Bulloch and Bryan County. Their comments followed almost an hour of frustrated public comment Tuesday during the commission meeting.
During Tuesday’s Commission meeting, a number of individuals spoke on the issue of water and the proposed agreement between Bulloch and Bryan counties for the purposes of providing water to the Hyundai Metaplant by drilling deep wells in the southern end of the county. Their comments came on the heels of the draft agreement obtained by Bulloch Action Coalition last week. (Read the document here)
Of the concerns mentioned, citizens vocalized fear over their wells drying up, the water table dropping, the impact on crops, the infrastructure needed to drill the wells, and costs that go beyond those that are financial.
One individual expressed concern about Bryan County’s mark-up on water rates at the expense of Bulloch County, however, County Attorney Jeff Akins clarified that in the proposal, Bryan County is slated to sell water at a rate of $12 per 1,000 gallons, but the number also includes wastewater/sewer fees. “And the majority of it is for sewer because it’s much more expensive,” he said.
Jennifer Stone told commissioners that not only has the cost of living gone up in Bulloch County due to the increase in taxes, she’s concerned about her shallow well going dry in the event of an agreement with Bryan County because of the pull on resources.
Justin Anthony pressed commissioners to consider the impact of the amount of wastewater that’s expected to come about under this agreement as well. “What’s this wastewater going to do in the amount that’s being pumped into the river? And ultimately, who is benefitting from the cost of this plant? How much are we benefiting from it?”
Tim Powell shared that more than 4,000 people had signed the petition opposing the drilling of the wells. He said commissioners should petition the state of Georgia to allocate some of the state’s billions in surplus funds to draw water out of the Savannah River. On the proposed contract between the two counties, Powell said the contract was “quite possibly the worst business contract in the history of contracts.”
“This draft contract should be shredded, then burned and the ashes flushed down the toilet because it really stinks,” Powell said.
Others told Commissioners that they left other counties like Chatham and Effingham because of the explosive unplanned growth and feel as though similar problems are coming to Bulloch County.
Not a Done Deal
Chairman Roy Thompson asked Akins how when the proposal was drafted, to which Akins replied, “2022…It’s a draft. Nothing’s been finalized.”
Thompson went on to say:
“You know why our signatures are not on it? Cause we disagree with it. And we’re not gonna sign it until we agree with it. There’s a lot of issues with that water agreement. You know, I don’t know why, well I do, too, you can look on every page and it says ‘draft.’ That means it’s not legal. That document is not legal. Why? Cause the word ‘drafts’ got to be taken off and our signatures have to be put on it. And that’s not going to happen until we get some answers. I made this comments a few meetings ago…We’re doing the same thing y’all are doing. We’re waiting on EPD/EPA to contact us to discuss the issues.What happens if the wells go dry? Who’s gonna pay for it? We’re not signing that until we find out all of those answers. So, you can come every meeting that you want to, we’ll listen intently, sorry our horn didn’t work today but I didn’t stop those that ran over. But we can’t answer your questions because they haven’t answered ours. And if you don’t have the trust in us to not sign that, then so be it. If we had agreed with it, we would have signed it two years ago.”
Commissioner Timmy Rushing
“Just to let you know, we are in negotiations about if there’s any damage to anybody’s well. We don’t have the answer now so we can’t give it to you. She made a good point: Now this is just off my cuff, I don’t have a piece of paper saying nothing, this is redneck whatever I am – this is just ignorant knowledge of mine. The federal and state government already own land going straight through the middle of the county down there and it’s called ‘I-16.’ They don’t need us – they’re offering us. And it’s said over and over again in this room, ‘Y’all are all businessmen or were businessmen.” I honestly believe the wells are going to be drilled no matter what we say because I don’t believe we can do nothing to stop them. They can do just like the weight station, they can put them right there and pump it right down I-16 and they ain’t got to ask us. The water belongs to Georgia, it don’t belong to Bulloch County. Now, with that being said, as a businessman and speaking for everyone else that’s a businessman, we’re gonna try to get the best deal we can for Bulloch County.”
Rushing belabored that if the resources are going to be taken no matter what, it’s better to get money for it than to have them take the resources with no payment.
Commissioner Ray Mosley only offered that a decision has not yet been made. “We just ask people to be civil. Give us an opportunity to try to get answers and when we get answers, we will give answers back.”
Commissioner Toby Connor
“This draft, ladies and gentlemen, it’s garbage. 100%, we know that already. That’s why we hadn’t given it to you. Because we knew it had to be fixed before we could ever have town hall meetings. And it’s been discussed by this board numerous times at numerous meetings – where we gonna do it, how we gonna get this out, we gotta get it fixed first…We’ve got to get it presentable for you. We gotta get it there. When we get it there, we gonna come see every one of you.”
He also said commissioners have talked about going through Hyundai for remedy if the state won’t do it or even the revenue off of the wells, though that’s not ideal since the revenue is supposed to benefit Bulloch County citizens generally – not to remedy problems caused by it.
“But we know it’s garbage,” Connor said. “We know it is.”
The comments by the public begin at the 31:30 mark.
The comments by commissioners begin at the 1:20:20 mark.