Flint Riverkeeper aims to preserve Bainbridge’s biggest natural resource for generations to come

Published 4:48 pm Friday, July 13, 2018

If there’s one thing Flint Riverkeeper wants residents to know, it’s not that they get together on weekends to clean the river banks.

It’s not a group bent on shutting farmers water off, as it has been accused of over the years.

It’s a passionate assembly of people that advocates for clean flowing water. Simple as that, said Flint Riverkeeper Exectutive Director Gordon Rogers.

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“It’s a river thing,” said Rogers. “It’s not a Democratic thing. It’s not a Republican thing. It’s not a white or a black thing. It’s a river thing.”

Established in 2008, the non-profit organization exists to address any issues that threaten the sustainability of the Flint River and its tributaries, using legal and ethical tools to preserve one of Georgia’s greatest natural resources.

As Rogers likes to describe it, Flint Riverkeeper is Civics 101.

“We use all three branches of government,” said Rogers. “Sometimes, it’s bringing an en-forcement action to the executive branch’s attention. Sometimes it’s tweaking a law or stopping a bad law in the legislature. Sometimes we use the justice system.”

That last one is a last resort for Flint Riverkeeper, as litigation is potentially expensive, tedious and turns control over to a federal judge or a jury. The organization is currently in the middle of a clean water act lawsuit with a manufacturer in Upson County that creates fire retardant and resistant materials for first responders and the military.

The lawsuit aims to correct the pollution the manufacturer has let seep into the Flint River, and also neighbors’ properties.

“They make a great product,” said Rogers. “They have about a $7 million on payroll, and they employ over 200 people. Nobody wants them to go away, including us and the neighbors.”

But Flint Riverkeeper wants to see extra measures taken to keep any pollutants from finding their way into the water.

The City of Albany has had seven sewage line leaks since January. The most recent was July 6, where 200,000 gallons of untreated sewage was spilled, some of which found its way into the Flint River. Rogers said much of the problems like this stem from infrastructure that needs to be updated. Flint Riverkeeper is currently putting pressure on local leaders and officials in Albany to improve sewage systems and prevent more spills.

Because what gets in the Flint River in Upson County eventually will flow to Decatur County. The flow of water is one of the biggest problems Flint Riverkeeper addresses.

The Flint River is critical to Bainbridge’s economy, both from a farming standpoint and as a source for recreation. Rogers realizes that importance, he said.

“I think that there is a quality of life piece of it that kind of shows up,” said Rogers. “It’s hard to quantify. It’s partially quantified by the value of waterfront property. You can sort of see quality of life reflected in those land values along the river or creeks itself. But I don’t think that’s a total reflection, because a lot of people live here that don’t live on the river, but yet they use it all the time.”

Helping protect the Flint River for future generations of bass fishermen, boaters, farmers and tourists isn’t hard, and can start at home. Rogers said simply being more conservative with water and watching how you dispose of household pollutants will go a long way.

“If you’re in agribusiness, being conscious of what you’re doing with insecticides and herbi-cides,” said Rogers. “Which, the vast majority of professional farmers are that way. They aren’t out there to waste money or time, or trash the environment. They are sort of the first environ-mentalists, and possibly some of the best.”

To learn more about Flint Riverkeeper, contact Rogers at (229) 435-2241 or (912) 223-6761. He can also be reached by email at gordon@flintriverkeeper.org.