Rayonier was indeed discharging their wastewater into the Altamaha today, but those who know the river well or have paddled it before say that the conditions were far better than what is usually encountered. Presumably the mill was releasing at a much lower volume; in fact the upstream discharge pipe (there are two) didn’t seem to be releasing at all. Nonetheless, what we found was bad enough:
What the video can’t capture, of course, is the acrid smell. Just downstream from the release point, the acrid odor was enough to make your eyes water. And for fifteen miles or more, the smell stayed with us; it was particularly noticeable in the sour breezes blowing across the water or after a passing motorboat had churned the river in its wake.
As expected, we had no interest in swimming or water fights today; I was reluctant even to soak my hat in the river to cool off. Made for a tough day, but I think we’re also better for the experience. It’s too easy for debates about environmental policy to be made in the abstract. Paddling twenty-plus miles on a polluted river brings it all home in a very concrete way.
We have only two days left on our odyssey, and we’re excited to be heading back into cleaner stretches of this great river. I won’t have internet access again until after we finish in Darien, so it will be Saturday at the earliest before I can post again.