PRESS RELEASE: ORK to hold panel discussion on plastic pollution

Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) will hold its annual meeting on Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 6 p.m. It will be held virtually and is open to all. Registration is required. The meeting will begin with organization updates before launching into a panel discussion on plastic use and pollution. The panelists are:

  • Hermina Glass-Hill — Field Representative, Oceana (Georgia)
  • Jennette Gayer — State Director, Environment Georgia
  • Don Bates — Founder, Osprey Initiative

The discussion will be led by ORK staff.

When attendees register, they will receive a link to stream the documentary film The Story of Plastic. Attendees will watch the film before the panel discussion and will be able to ask questions of the panel. The Story of Plastic takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it. The panel discussion will also offer specific ideas and actions that can help combat plastic pollution in our watershed.

For registration links and more details, visit

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. The Canoochee River is about 108 miles long and the Ogeechee River itself is approximately 245 miles long. The Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,500 square miles across 22 counties in Georgia. More at


Visitors leave beer cans and half-burned trash on the banks of the Ogeechee River.

ORK is encouraging families and households to adopt a spot on the river and commit to checking it for litter regularly.

One of the busiest, and messiest, places along the river is the landing. From constructed boat ramps to informal sandy spots to put in, these are heavily trafficked areas and tend to accumulate trash.

Our goal is to have each location ‘adopted’ by a dedicated crew who will make sure the litter is collected and disposed of properly.

ORK will provide documents for volunteer hours, if needed.

Volunteers will:

  • Choose a location to adopt
  • Cleanup the location at least once per month
  • Take before and after photos

Before heading out, consider the weather and prepare appropriately. Also be advised an ORK staff member will not be in attendance. This clean-up project will be “at your own risk.”

Interested volunteers should visit the map for possible spots to adopt then contact Melanie Sparrow, education and outreach coordinator.

What are PFAs?

via The National Wildlife Federation

PFAs, or polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl

What is that?

PFAs are a category of manmade carcinogenic chemicals. Invented and brought into widespread use during World War II, they are very effective in extinguishing fires, especially ones accelerated by jet fuel or petroleum products. The PFAs are mixed with water to create a spray foam that suffocates the fire quickly and doesn’t allow the fire to reignite. They are also used to coat fabrics for firefighters.

PFAs are considered ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down in the environment and they accumulate in wildlife, plants and humans.

I don’t work in an airport and I’m not a firefighter or in the military, so I’m fine. 

Not really. PFAs are used in many household items like nonstick cookware, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, windshield fluid and carpets.

They are also in the water — groundwater and drinking water. And over time, they accumulate in fish and livestock, meaning they are in the food chain. All of these sources cause them to accumulate in the human body.

Additionally, steps should be taken to make firefighting and military equipment safe for those using it.

Firefighter puts out car fire with PFAs-based foam

What does that mean?

Scientists are still investigating, testing and studying results, but here are some results:

  • It is estimated that 98% of Americans have some level of PFAs in their blood.
  • If a person were able to avoid exposure to any and all PFAs, it would take 3.5 years for half of the PFAs to be processed out of their system.
  • Studies show links to thyroid and liver problems, obesity, high cholesterol, low birth weight, and certain cancers.
  • Approximately 16 million Americans are drinking water that has been contaminated with PFAs. This includes private wells and public water systems.

CDC guidance on PFAsFDA guidance on PFAs

How do we trace PFAs?

Attention needs to be paid to threatened areas, particularly those near military installations or manufacturing plants. For example, the U.S. Air Force is testing water on 200 bases around the world, but as of last year had only completed a third of them.

All three U.S. Air Force bases in Georgia showed significant levels of PFAs contamination in the groundwater. Unfortunately, the military did not test water offsite, even if it was nearby. Local residents that use private wells are especially vulnerable to contamination.

The EPA drinking water advisory level is 70 parts per trillion PFAs. Groundwater samples from Moody Air Force Base tested 5,000 times that; Dobbins Air Reserve tested at 1,000 times; and Robins Air Force Base tested at more than 5,000 times the screening level.

Fire department sprays water on fire suppression foam. Photo by Greg L. Davis U.S. Air Force via

So how do we get rid of it?

Some municipalities have already started to take steps.

  • In Rome, Georgia, the city commission adopted a resolution stating that “certain manufacturers and distributors” were a public nuisance, paving the way for possible litigation if contamination occurs.
  • With the support of the firefighters, the state of Washington passed a bill requiring safer options for its firefighters.
  • The chemical company 3M is facing multiple federal lawsuits in Charleston, South Carolina, for production of the PFAs compounds. 3M is also in the courtroom over allegations it polluted waterways near its factories in Minnesota.
  • The State of Michigan tests fish and issues an annual advisory in the form of a Eat Safe Fish Guide.

Local governments and citizens must require action regarding PFAs.

  • Demand comprehensive PFAs drinking water and groundwater testing near high-likelihood sources. Use that data to determine the cause of the contamination and mitigate it.
  • Encourage drinking water testing of private wells in high-risk areas.
  • Require polluters to pay for remediation and damages, and not expect citizens to foot the bill, like in Summerville, Ga. or in Marinette, Wisc.
  • Test fish that may have been contaminated and issue advisory, if needed.
  • Encourage lawmakers to ban PFAs and/or source healthier alternatives.
  • Demand the EPA sets standards for ‘acceptable’ and enforces those standards.
  • Require ongoing testing and monitoring of pollutant sources.

In the News

 EPA adds PFAs treatment options (July 2020)

UK’s The Guardian writes about PFAs in US drinking water (Sept 2020)

The poison found in everyone, even unborn babies – and who is responsible for it –  The Guardian, UK (Dec 2020)