The state agency responsible for air quality, industrial emissions and other environmental compliance matters will locate its newest district office in Augusta as early as next month.
"It shouldn't be, when something happens in Augusta, it's two or three hours before we have somebody there," said Bert Langley, emergency response program manager for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
EPD now serves Augusta from its Atlanta headquarters or its regional office in Athens. The Augusta office, Dr. Langley said, will start with a handful of employees and eventually become a full district facility.
"We'll start out with at least two emergency response people and probably some of our radiation people who do work along the Savannah River," he said. "But we plan to make it a full district office."
A final decision on a location for the office has not been made, but the selection is expected within three weeks.
EPD is responsible for many environmental matters that affect Augusta, including water pollution in the Savannah River, air emissions by local industries, the city's sewage treatment program, scrap tire disposal, landfills, chemical spills and leaks, ground water testing and cleanup, and drinking water treatment and permitting.
"We've been looking, for quite a while, for a better way to serve the folks in Georgia," Dr. Langley said. "A lot of our agency is in Atlanta. That is very good for us, but not always the best thing for our customers."
EPD's eventual objective will be to have compliance activities based in the new district to be served by the Augusta office. The district will include outlying counties, but EPD has yet to determine which counties will be included.
"Augusta has a huge volume of industry, a lot of transportation issues, water and the added concerns from being so close to SRS," Dr. Langley said. "All that makes it a very important place, we believe, to have a much higher presence than we do."
The Augusta office is the first major step in a five- to seven-year plan by EPD to redistribute its resources throughout the state.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.