Monthly sewage discharge affects businesses along the Flint River

Monthly sewage discharge affects businesses along the Flint River

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Dozens of people are asking if the Flint River is safe to be in.

For many in Albany, they’ve stopped fishing, swimming or kayaking in the river altogether.

The Flint Riverkeeper’s Office has been testing the water regularly for E. coli.

Sewage is discharged into the river every month after heavy rains.

Now, the worry of getting sick from being in the water is keeping people and business away.

Is it safe to eat fish, to kayak or to swim in the Flint River? These questions filled a room of worried and confused Albany neighbors Tuesday night.

“I never thought in a million years I would sit through a city commission meeting, that I would do water testing or really that I would be worried about putting my kids out there,” said Jeannie Yarger, owner of Flint River Outpost.

Jeannie Yarger is the owner of the Flint River Outpost.
Jeannie Yarger is the owner of the Flint River Outpost. (Source: WALB)

Yarger opened her kayak and canoe rental business in 2015.

“At this point, I’m taking a second job and my own business is my, almost a hobby at this point,” Yarger said.

Yarger also never thought sewage in the Flint River would all but close her business.

“You know, normally I’d be out there with my kids three days a week during the summer. Now, we might get out there once a month,” said Yarger.

Every time there is significant rainfall in Albany, millions of gallons of sewage runoff makes its way to the Flint.

Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers said the dirty water typically stays in the area for 48 hours before making its way downstream. And if the Flint gets a reputation of being “nasty” that reputation may not go away.

Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers.
Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers. (Source: WALB)

“If that happens, it’s not a few years to get rid of that reputation. It’s generational to get rid of that reputation,” Rogers said.

Water testing is being done to determine the exact environmental affects the sewage discharge has on the Flint River.

Yarger’s story is proof of the economical effects it’s had on Albany.

“I think it’s going to take a lot of attention and a lot of progress before people come back,” said Yarger.

The City of Albany has hired an engineering firm, Constantine Engineering, to create a plan to solve the sewage discharge problem. The firm is working with the Flint Riverkeeper’s Office.

Representatives said they’ll have their finalized plan for the city in late March or early April.

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