A Frightening Halloween for the Chattahoochee River

Media Contacts

Environment Georgia

In anticipation of the scariest of holidays, Environment Georgia offered a list of the Top Ten Frightening Facts about the Chattahoochee River. The group offered their recommendations for steps that the EPA can take to make next Halloween a lot less “terrifying” for the Chattahoochee.

“While the ghosts and ghouls of Halloween costumes disappear after October 31st, the very real, and very scary, problems facing the Chattahoochee are not going anywhere. Agricultural runoff, sloppy development, and industrial pollution are all haunting the health of the Chattahoochee River,” said Jennette Gayer, advocate with Environment Georgia.

Environment Georgia’s Top Ten Frightening Facts were:

  1. A Horrifying Mess: The upper Chattahoochee River is ranked in the top ten percent of the most polluted watersheds in Georgia, and twenty percent in the nation. 
  2. Creepy Chemicals: The Toxic Release Index (TRI) shows that the number of toxic discharges into the Chattahoochee in 2007 was over 400,000 pounds.[ii]
  3. Enter at your own risk: Of those 400,000 pounds, there were close to 6,000 pounds where identified as cancer-causing chemicals.[iii]
  4. The worst perpetrator of cancer-causing, developmental and reproductive toxicant dumping into the Chattahoochee in 2007 was Wansley Steam Electric Generating Plant.  They released 2,550 pounds of cancer-causing chemicals, over 1,500 pounds of developmental toxicants, and 1,400 pounds of reproductive toxicants into the Chattahoochee River.[iv]
  5. Disappearing Water: One in four homes in metro Atlanta (half a million people) use a septic system, more than any other urban area in the country.  When water is taken from one watershed (for Atlanta, that’s the Chattahoochee) and drained into another through a septic system, water loss for the original watershed is 100%, meaning the water taken out of the Chattahoochee for this purpose never goes back into the Chattahoochee.[v]
  6. Scary Swimming: E coli bacteria levels are currently more than 200 times normal counts and 35 times the acceptable level.  Coming into contact with water containing such a high level of E. coli can cause ear and eye infections and stomach problems, among other things.[vi]





7. Extremely high levels of E. coli and the dangers this can pose to visitors have contributed to the 20% drop in visitation at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.[vii]

8. About 3.5 million people depend on the Chattahoochee for their drinking water, a number expected to double by 2050.  The finite water supply of the Chattahoochee is already stretched by supplying water for drinking, industry and development, and septic systems.[viii]

9. Right now, 57% of streams in Georgia are at risk of losing their Clean Water Act protections because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions.[ix]

10. Over 3 million Georgians get their drinking water from sources fed by streams that may no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act.[x]





  “We cannot let the EPA get tricked out of protecting the Chattahoochee this Halloween. Rather, it is time to treat the Chattahoochee River to less pollution and Clean Water Act protections,” added Gayer.


 “We thank the head of the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who has already done so much for protecting our waters across the country, but time is running out for us to end the witching hour and restore protections to the Chattahochee River.”



River Basins of Georgia, Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, downloaded from http://www.rivercenter.uga.edu/education/k12resources/basinsofga2.htm, 11 October 2010.


[ii] Tony Dustzik, Frontier Group, and Piper Crowell, John Rumpler, Environment

America Research and Policy Center, Wasting Our Waterways, Fall 2009.  See Methodology Section on page 24 for data source.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Tapped Out: Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper, downloaded from  http://www.chattahoochee.org/tappedout/slideshow.php?s=teacher#23, 11 October 2010.

[vi] About North Georgia, Randy’s Corner, downloaded from http://ngeorgia.com/publishersnotes/04sep.html, September 2004.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Tapped Out: Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper, downloaded from http://www.chattahoochee.org/tappedout/slideshow.php?s=teacher#19, 11 October 2010.

[ix] Data Source: National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) from Reach Address Database (RAD) v2.0 at 1:100,000 scale.  Percentages are calculated relative to total stream length using total kilometers of linear streams in watersheds that are totally or partially contained within each state boundary.  Watersheds are at the 8-digit Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) level.

[x] Data Sources: NHD (1:100,000 scale), Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS); Preliminary Analysis.  Source water protection areas (SWPAs) (based on SDWIS 4th Quarter 2003 data) for this estimate encompasses the drainage area of up to 15 miles upstream from a drinking water intake, and any SWPA that contains at least one start reach or intermittent/ephemeral stream is included in the count.  Only SWPAs of intakes located on the NHD are included in this analysis (EPA has located over 85% of intakes on the NHD).