Walton County

Residents near Rivian plant site say wells contaminated by silt runoff

WALTON COUNTY, Ga. — Residents who live near the massive Rivian electric vehicle plant site in east Georgia off I-20 say silt from the graded land is seeping into the water table and contaminating their drinking water.

The co-founder of Rescue Ranch, a foster compound for medically challenged dogs and other animals, told Channel 2′s Tom Regan that the silt has filled her water tank and caked water filters after rain.

“It makes our drinking water absolutely undrinkable. You can’t cook with it. You can’t bathe with it. We definitely don’t want to give our animals that. All of this started after the grading started at Rivian. There’s multiple members of the community struggling with the same issue that their water is no longer drinkable,” Renee Ussary said.

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As previously reported by Channel 2 Action News, Rivian announced that it was halting construction of the $5 billion plant indefinitely and shifting production of the vehicle that was supposed to take place in Georgia to an existing plant in Illinois.

But residents say even though the plant isn’t being built, the silt contamination problem will continue.

“Almost everyone here is on well water. Even if you’re on city water, it’s well water,” Rescue Ranch co-founder Courtney Bryson said.

A local resident who organized opposition to the Rivian plant said the water contamination issue is unacceptable.

“I’m very angry because the state has not been forthright. Nobody from the state has talked to us,” JoEllen Artz said.

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The Georgia Department of Economic Development and Rivian released a statement responding to complaints of groundwater contamination from the 2,000-acre site, saying:

“Frivolous claims regarding groundwater have already been defeated in court. The site does not sit on top of a significant groundwater recharge area. Environmental protection forms the backbone of Rivian’s corporate philosophy, and from the start, the State has been committed to protecting local groundwater and minimizing environmental impact by following established law.

“Throughout the project, Georgia Department of Environmental Protection (EPD) continues to monitor the site. Rivian has a stormwater management plan in place that has proven to function as designed, preventing excessive runoff and sedimentation into area waterways and preserving the integrity of the site. As tenant, Rivian is now in charge of the site, and the State Department of Economic Development and EPD will continue to oversee the company’s contractual commitment to maintaining the site.”

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division also issued a statement:

“EPD has investigated several of these claims. To date, we have not documented anything as a result of grading that would impact their wells. If sediment is getting into their well, it is likely not encased properly. The state does not have an agency that investigates the structural integrity of private wells. However, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service does provide a service to sample their private wells. If they feel their wells are contaminated, they can contact their local UGA Extension Service for assistance.”

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