One of four proposed Bulloch well sites to provide water for the Hyundai Metaplant.

One of four proposed Bulloch County well sites to provide water for the Hyundai Metaplant.

Credit: Justin Taylor/The Current

Bulloch County residents worried about their private wells in the face of the Hyundai development had a chance to pinpoint the expected impact on their property at a public meeting Monday. They also heard how the state plans to help mitigate private well issues related to the massive development. 

Bulloch and Bryan counties plan to drill two wells each — all four located in Bulloch County — that will cumulatively withdraw a maximum of 6.625 million gallons per day from the Floridan aquifer to supply the Hyundai Metasite. That volume had some residents worried about saltwater being sucked into their wells, a concern they voiced during and after a boisterous public meeting in December.

Christine Voudy is a geologist with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Christine Voudy is a geologist with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Credit: Mary Landers / The Current

Speaking to an audience of more than 100 people at the Southeast Bulloch High School, EPD Geologist Christine Voudy tackled that issue immediately. 

“Bottom line, there will be no saltwater encroachment into any wells in Bryan or Bulloch counties,” Voudy said.

Voudy explained how the characteristics of the area’s main source of water, the Floridan aquifer, prevents that encroachment. She also gave an overview of policies in place to protect the aquifer by restricting water withdrawal in the so-called red and yellow zones. The red zone, which includes Chatham and the southern part of Effingham counties, has decreased its groundwater usage in recent years. The yellow zone, which includes Bryan and Liberty counties, has kept its withdrawals steady. As a result of these ongoing policies, groundwater levels in Chatham County have rebounded. 

Residents offered comments and asked questions throughout the meeting. Many, like Kristen Stampher, who represents the Facebook group, "It’s about Water," expressed frustration that the water discussion lagged far behind the Metaplant construction, expected to be complete by the end of this year.

“Any allowance of such a significant amount of water to be withdrawn just over the line of the green zone by a requirement taking place in the yellow zone is a clear indication that you fail to properly regionally plan and conserve the water on the current uses now,” she said to audience applause.

Kristen Stampher spoke at Monday’s water meeting in Bulloch County. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Kristen Stampher spoke at Monday’s water meeting in Bulloch County.

Credit: Mary Landers / The Current

Voudy showed models of the expected impacts on private wells located near the four planned municipal wells in Bulloch. Attendees were invited to use an interactive map to see the predicted impact on their wells. Wells in the shallower surficial aquifer aren’t expected to be impacted. The closest Floridan aquifer wells are expected to experience a loss of head of up to 19 feet in a worst case scenario of usage at the maximum permitted level. 

That doesn’t mean wells would have to be dug deeper, Voudy and others said. The likely scenario is that the pump would have to be lowered at a cost of about $1,000-$2,000, said Bill Frechette, a hydrologist with EPD.

EPD wrote draft special condition conditions into the permit to address the cost of these impacts on private wells. Read the draft special conditions here.

The conditions outline that “a joint Bulloch County and Bryan County municipal managed fund will be created by the permitted counties, which may include industrial monetary contributions and assistance.” Several residents suggested Hyundai should be required to fund the well mitigations, but EPD officials said that because the counties are requesting the permits, EPD can impose permit conditions on only the counties.

Other draft special conditions address the long-term need to provide surface water to Bryan and Bulloch counties within 25 years. “Groundwater withdrawals from the proposed four (4) municipal Floridan Aquifer wells in the Green Zone of Bulloch County must be reduced upon completion and operation of infrastructure to deliver surface water in the area,” the draft condition states. Read the draft special conditions here.

EPD is reviewing the permit applications from Bulloch and Bryan. The comment period closes on March 8. Written comments may be sent to or mailed to Environmental Protection Division, Watershed Protection Branch, Suite 1470A East Tower, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr., Atlanta, GA 30334. Include the words “Groundwater Applications for Bryan County Mega-Site” in the subject line to help ensure that your comments will be forwarded to the correct staff.

The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff. This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with The Current