Learn about our areas of experties involving state crimes, and better understand your rights.
Learn about our areas of experties involving state crimes, and better understand your rights.
If you are accused of a crime, the only thing standing between your freedom and a verdict of “guilty” is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Whitemarsh Island, GA.
Those who have been arrested before know that life in the legal system is no laughing matter. Aside from the imminent ramifications of fines and jail time, any goals you have of bettering yourself and advancing your life could be compromised. Without a trusted attorney by your side, you could face a lifetime of embarrassment and poor employment prospects due to a tarnished criminal record.
The good news? Dennis O’Brien and his team of experienced lawyers in Whitemarsh Island are ready to clear your name. By retaining the help of a criminal defense attorney early in the legal process, you have a much better chance of securing your freedom and living a life as a productive member of society.
At O’Brien Law Firm PC, our practice was founded to fight for the rights of individuals accused of or charged with a crime. Our team of legal experts is well-equipped to take even the most difficult, contentious cases. From violent felonies to DUI, there is nothing we haven’t seen and handled. As a former law enforcement officer, founding attorney Dennis O’Brien knows exactly how much a person can lose if convicted. That’s why we work tirelessly to secure a verdict that is favorable for our clients.
Regardless of how serious or minor your case may be, know that we will fight fearlessly on your behalf. You deserve zealous representation – when you hire O’Brien Law Firm PC, you will receive nothing less.
Many of our clients are surprised to discover that founding lawyer Dennis O’Brien was a police officer prior to his criminal defense career. As a former Field Training Officer for the Memphis Police Department, he has over two decades of knowledge and experience in the criminal justice system. Dennis truly understands the nuance and complexities involved in a criminal defense case. This rare experience gives Dennis a clear edge in any criminal defense case and gives clients priceless peace of mind when they need it the most. Unlike some criminal defense attorneys in Whitemarsh Island, Dennis O’Brien and his team believe that every client deserves effective, empathetic legal assistance. While some Whitemarsh Island criminal defense firms will take weekends off or pass along cases to paralegals, Dennis personally reviews each of his cases. There is no case too small or big for O’Brien Law Firm PC. When you hire our firm, you can rest easy knowing that we will be by your side when the going gets tough.
When you are charged with a drug crime in Whitemarsh Island, it can change your life forever. Georgia imposes very strict punishments for drug offenses. The truth is, it’s hard to get your life back on track with a drug charge on your record. Your freedom and way of life could be in the hands of your criminal defense attorney. As such, you need a competent lawyer with years of experience handling drug cases. Leaving your fate in the hands of an incompetent attorney could have long-lasting effects on your family and may result in a conviction.
While the consequences for a drug crime in Georgia are serious, there’s reason to be hopeful: O’Brien Law Firm PC is here to fight for you. Remember – being charged with a drug crime is NOT the same thing as being convicted.
Our stellar team has represented many clients facing numerous drug-related charges. While each situation varies, one constant remains the same for clients facing drug charges: a fear of what lies ahead. At O’Brien Law Firm PC our job is to help you overcome the fear of the unknown. We do so by ensuring you understand your charges, the possible outcomes associated with those charges, and the options you need to consider from a criminal defense standpoint.
No matter what charge you are facing, our team has the experience and resources to build a comprehensive defense strategy for your drug case in Whitemarsh Island, GA. Without a criminal defense attorney acting as your advocate, you could be facing very harsh penalties. Here are a few punishments you could be facing for drug crimes in Whitemarsh Island:
Having less than a gram (or one milliliter for liquids) of this type of drug results in a prison term of one to three years. Having four grams or milliliter carries a term of one to eight years.
Any substance on this list is punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years.
If you have less than two grams or milliliters of this substance, punishments can be between one year and three years. Having up to four grams or milliliters results in a prison sentence of one to eight years.
Those who are in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are subject to a jail sentence of up to 12 months. Fines may be no more than $1,000. Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana can result in a prison term of one to 10 years.
To avoid these life-changing punishments, you must take action now. Contact O’Brien Law Firm today for a consultation about your case.Contact Me!
Violent crime offenses in Whitemarsh Island typically involve some form of bodily harm to another individual, actions committed against an individual’s will, or threatening someone with bodily harm. Aggravated violent offenses are more severe charges and often occur when a violent crime is made more serious due to circumstances like deadly weapons.
Much like serious drug cases, violent crimes create an added layer of negativity that follows the accused for the rest of their life. In these cases, even an accusation is enough to cause irreparable damage to a person’s reputation. Those convicted of a violent crime face severe penalties that can include years in a correctional facility.
When you are accused of any of the above crimes, your freedom hangs in the balance. The outcome of your case will determine whether you leave the courtroom with your freedom intact or stripped away to serve time behind bars. Because the punishments for violent crimes are so extreme, you should be seeking legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney in Whitemarsh Island, GA, as soon as possible. As a former police officer with a long record of positive verdicts in violent crime cases, Dennis O’Brien is well equipped to represent you in court.
|Having a criminal defense lawyer by your side is the best way to avoid the serious punishments associated with violent crimes. These punishments usually result in prison time if convicted and include:|
|Forced rape:||20 years|
|Armed robbery:||Up to 20 years|
|Simple assault:||Up to 12 months|
|Aggravated assault:||10 to 20 years|
|Aggravated battery:||Up to 20 years|
|Involuntary manslaughter:||One to 20 years|
|Vehicular homicide||Up to 15 years|
|Murder:||Life in prison or the death sentence|
As a former police officer, Dennis O’Brien has seen the toll it takes on a person when charged with a crime. His time in law enforcement allows him to empathize with his clients who desperately need competent representation. Despite being innocent until proven guilty, accusations are scary, and conviction could be a reality. That is why you must work with a trustworthy criminal defense lawyer in Whitemarsh Island, GA who will work tirelessly to clear your name.
Clients choose O’Brien Law Firm because we believe in open communication, honesty, and hard work. It is not our job to act as judges for those who have been accused of crimes. Rather, our goal is to find the best defense that allows us to protect our clients’ rights and freedoms.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the most common crimes committed in Georgia. Punishments for such a crime can be severe, and for understandable reasons – when a person operates a vehicle while they are intoxicated, they’re putting their life and the lives of others at risk.
While DUI is a serious crime that completely upend the accused’s life, the earnest desire to end drunk driving can make police officers too eager to catch a person who they believe is under the influence.
The city of Whitemarsh Island, Georgia, has implemented severe punishments for DUI, even for first-time offenders. Individuals charged with DUI in Whitemarsh Island could face:
Fortunately, if you or someone you love has been charged with DUI, there is hope. This is particularly true when the accused is administered a breath or blood test for DUI. In fact, cases that involve a breath and/or blood test are beaten daily. When you hire O’Brien Law Firm PC, we will dive deep into your DUI case in Whitemarsh Island and examine every angle possible for your case to be dismissed. Here are just a few questions our team will investigate:
There are numerous ways to beat a DUI case in Georgia, from unreliable field sobriety tests to inaccurate state-administered breath tests. As a veteran criminal defense lawyer in Whitemarsh Island, GA, Dennis O’Brien has the knowledge and experience to expose the state’s mistakes and fight for your rights. When you hire O’Brien Law Firm PC your chances of dismissal are greatly increased. When your case is dismissed, you can continue living life without the burden of a criminal record.
Andy Farantos slides a plate of fries and gravy across the counter with a warning. Once you eat these, he said, you won’t ever want to go anywhere else.A few bites in and it’s hard to argue with him. Golden brown and piping hot, they call to mind the boardwalk on a hot summer day from childhood.Some restaurants succeed by staying current, offering the latest food of the season. Others thrive on continuity: Customers love them because they never, ever change.G&A Restaurant, a Highlandtown rowhouse diner th...
Andy Farantos slides a plate of fries and gravy across the counter with a warning. Once you eat these, he said, you won’t ever want to go anywhere else.
A few bites in and it’s hard to argue with him. Golden brown and piping hot, they call to mind the boardwalk on a hot summer day from childhood.
Some restaurants succeed by staying current, offering the latest food of the season. Others thrive on continuity: Customers love them because they never, ever change.
G&A Restaurant, a Highlandtown rowhouse diner that opened in 1927 as “home of Baltimore’s best Coney Island hot dogs,” falls into the latter category. In the decades he’s been running the restaurant, the third generation in his family to do so, Andy Farantos has altered little about the place. The teal countertop still bears the smudgy marks from generations of elbows. During a recent visit, most diners said they had been coming in for most of their lives.
But in a few weeks, Farantos will close up the Eastern Avenue diner and relocate the whole business to White Marsh’s Philadelphia Road. The new location, in a strip mall where Route 7 intersects New Forge Road, is set to open in early September. For regulars, it marks the end of an era and a reminder of just how much Highlandtown, and the city itself, has transformed.
“Everything is gone now,” said customer Cherylann McCullough, in between bites of French fries, which she called “nice and crispy.” Now 63, she estimates she’s been coming to the restaurant since she was 4. She just hasn’t found better food anywhere else.
During a lull before the lunchtime crush, Farantos, 55, looked wistful. It’s hard, he admitted, to say goodbye. Uncles of his got their introduction to the food service industry there before moving on to start their own restaurants. His now-grown children earned extra cash by waiting tables here.
There isn’t too much time for grief. Customers walk in and need to be greeted and seated. On any given visit, diners can expect to see him darting between ringing up orders and manning the grill in front of the window. Should a line start, he’s confident he can get to everyone in minutes. “Four up on two!” calls a server — it means four Coney Island hot dogs, fully dressed with mustard, chopped onions and chili, served on two plates.
An appearance years ago on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” helped launch G&A into a bona fide tourist destination. Farantos’ wife and business partner, Alexia, 53, said guests have come from Alaska, Hawaii and France. A signed photo of the cast of HBO’s “Sopranos” hangs above the cash register. The group decided to make a detour while filming an episode in Maryland. Other high-profile visitors included Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Henry Winkler, who stopped by on a tour of national ballparks. Winkler even handed Farantos a signed, framed portrait of “The Fonz” that he had in the trunk of his car.
Those photos will be in packing boxes soon. But Farantos said he doesn’t plan on bringing everything with him to White Marsh.
The idea to specialize in Coney Island hot dogs came to his grandfather and his cousin, Gregory and Alex Diacumacos, on their way to Baltimore from Sparta, Greece.
Despite the name, the Coney Island hot dog doesn’t actually refer to the beachside neighborhood in Brooklyn. (Though that is where a Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker helped popularize the frankfurter and an annual hot dog eating contest takes place each July 4.) Instead, it’s a dish that Greek immigrants came up with while living in New York City, Farantos said.
While Farantos’ relatives moved to Baltimore, others migrated to Detroit, opening Coney Island hot dog stands that survive to this day. Many regard Michigan as the home of the Coney Island hot dog, but that’s not accurate, Farantos said.
Tasty and cheap, the dogs in Baltimore became a sought-after item among people who worked in the area. G&A Restaurant was an after-work stop for blue collar employees of Bethlehem Steel, General Motors, Westinghouse and nearby canneries and a broom factory. On weekends, customers stopped in for a bite after shopping at Eastern Avenue stores like Epstein’s. (Neighbors say Eastern Avenue was considered ‘The Avenue” before Hampden’s 36th Street nabbed that title).
The diner has hung on long after industry left, and remained even as many of the Greek immigrants who lived in the area departed for Baltimore County. Today, the neighborhood is predominantly Latin American. Men in trucks parked along the street hack huge green coconuts and serve them to customers with straws. Latin bakeries sell Mexican sweet breads called conchas, named for the seashells they resemble.
While the pandemic was a particularly exhausting time to be in business, Farantos said it wasn’t the cause of his decision to relocate. Rather, he wanted to be closer to his home in Baltimore County and away from the stresses of city life. He’s tired of having customers show up under the influence; one pulled a knife on him.
And, Farantos said, most longtime patrons have moved out to the suburbs of Baltimore County. They “don’t want to come to Baltimore City,” he said.
“I’ll miss it,” said 82-year-old James Simmons, who was picking up an order of four Coney Island hot dogs during a recent visit.
“I’m definitely going” to the new location, said Bob Lipka, 67, a 50-year customer of the restaurant.
Leaving Baltimore, with all its quirks, “is a bittersweet feeling, believe me,” said Alexia Farantos, reached at the restaurant Wednesday morning. “I know when I walk out the door for the last time I’m going to start bawling. I’m thinking about it right now and I’m getting teary.
SAVANNAH, Ga., Oct. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- DXE Properties, Acuity Partners, and JSR Development are pleased to announce the acquisition of Jasmine Place Apartments in Savannah, GA. This is the second acquisition the group has put together in Georgia within the past twelve months. Jasmine Place Apartments, located just north of Whitemarsh Island, is a 112-unit value add property built in 1979. Donato Settanni, DXE Properties, said, "The market for well located multifamily property in the South East is extremely competitive right now. W...
SAVANNAH, Ga., Oct. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- DXE Properties, Acuity Partners, and JSR Development are pleased to announce the acquisition of Jasmine Place Apartments in Savannah, GA. This is the second acquisition the group has put together in Georgia within the past twelve months. Jasmine Place Apartments, located just north of Whitemarsh Island, is a 112-unit value add property built in 1979. Donato Settanni, DXE Properties, said, "The market for well located multifamily property in the South East is extremely competitive right now. We were able to secure this property off-market through strong local relationships. Savannah is a market that continues to grow in many directions, including their major port operation, manufacturing and tourism. We are long term believers in this market and excited to take on this asset." Joshua Gelb, JSR Development, said, "We are excited to once again partner with the teams at DXE Properties and Acuity Partners to add this attractive and well located property to our growing Southeast portfolio and to expand to the Savannah market."
The property will be rebranded to The Retreat Savannah and will receive over $2.5 million in property renovations to drive a robust value-add strategy.
DXE Properties, in conjunction with Acuity Partners and JSR Development, have invested almost $5 million in equity into the deal. Scott Kurland, President of Acuity Partners said, "We are happy to be partnering with DXE on the acquisition of this attractive asset."
The transaction was brokered by the Cushman and Wakefield team of: Nelson Abels, Austin Weathington, Taylor Bird and Jaime Slocumb.
About DXE Properties. DXE Properties is a value-oriented boutique real estate investment firm founded by Josh Eitingon and Donato Settanni. Its strength lies in the founders' unique backgrounds, resulting in an entrepreneurial and institutional investment strategy. DXE Properties uses a data-driven approach, combining meticulous research with extensive knowledge to find winning projects in all phases of the economic cycle. DXE has acquired over $60 million in multifamily real estate in the South East over the past 24 months.
About Acuity Partners. Acuity Partners is a boutique investment firm that provides access to proprietary investment opportunities in commercial real estate. Our team has been stewarding investments for wealthy individuals and families for over 30 years. As a private equity real estate firm, our goal is to help investors build long-term wealth and passive income streams through a diversified offering of value-add multifamily properties. Acuity Partners' current focus is on multifamily investment properties of 200 units or more. We prefer value-add and workforce housing in the Southeastern and Midwestern regions. We partner with other experienced sponsors and have invested in over 2,000 units that are valued at over $200 million.
About JSR Development. JSR development is a boutique real estate investment and development firm founded by Joshua Gelb. Engaged in the acquisition, development, management and disposition of multifamily and luxury single-family properties.
SOURCE DXE Properties LLC
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A Wilmington Island family’s home has caught the eyes of hundreds over the last month - especially at night.About 12 years ago the light display started with just a few white lights. Over the years the tradition has become a part of the Edge family. Now they have about 750,000 lights in their front yard that shine bright every night.A string of lights on the front porch was once the Edge family’s Christmas decor.“Now, it’s all of this,” homeowner, Carole Edge.Ov...
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A Wilmington Island family’s home has caught the eyes of hundreds over the last month - especially at night.
About 12 years ago the light display started with just a few white lights. Over the years the tradition has become a part of the Edge family. Now they have about 750,000 lights in their front yard that shine bright every night.
A string of lights on the front porch was once the Edge family’s Christmas decor.
“Now, it’s all of this,” homeowner, Carole Edge.
Over the years, their front yard became a Christmas light spectacle and a home to thousands and thousands of light bulbs.
“I can’t even begin to know how many lights he’s bought and how many lights we have,” said Edge.
Carole Edge said her husband considers the light display his pride and joy. Edge said every year his creation grows.
“Five or six new pieces some years. Some years it’s a lot of pieces,” said Edge.
In about a month and a half, the Edge family and crew put out the lights. The hardest part they say is figuring out where to plug everything in and get everything to run smoothly.
“We’ve got a great electrician. We’ve got more power than most people would have in their house. There are three-panel boxes now,” said Edge.
Edge said they almost didn’t put the lights up this year, but quickly realized they needed to.
“This year, above all others, people need to forget what’s going on with the politics and the COVID and we did it. I think just for a few minutes everybody gets their mind off of everything and all they see is this happiness and joy.”
Edge said there were some things they couldn’t do this year, but they made sure that they did what they could to give back.
“People have really been giving, so it was nice to be able to hand him that check.”
Edge said with the monetary donations people who came to see the lights gave, they were able to help a man with some of his medical bills and put away some for the upkeep of their lights.
“I’m so glad that we can do something to give back to the community. With all of the drama that’s going on in the world now, it does somebody’s heart good. Some of these kids they’ve been coming since they were little and now they’re grown up,” said Edge.
The family said they are beginning to run out of room, so they may have to do some readjusting next year. If you’re eager to see the lights, they will be out until the new year.
You can find the lights on N. Sheftall Circle on Wilmington Island.
Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.
Savannah's small size doesn’t mean it lacks distinct neighborhoods, each with their own character and reasons to visit.From the picturesque Downtown to the artsy Starlands, each neighborhood has its own distinct charm. It's the perfect city to explore on foot as there's so much to discover and the green spaces and parks are among the best you'll find in an urban setting. Here’s everything you need to know about the top neighbo...
Savannah's small size doesn’t mean it lacks distinct neighborhoods, each with their own character and reasons to visit.
From the picturesque Downtown to the artsy Starlands, each neighborhood has its own distinct charm. It's the perfect city to explore on foot as there's so much to discover and the green spaces and parks are among the best you'll find in an urban setting. Here’s everything you need to know about the top neighborhoods in Savannah.
Best for history buffs
Best for being in the heart of the hustle and bustle, Downtown Savannah is full of charm and Southern hospitality but its also one of the nation's most notable historic districts. The neighborhood is composed of Savannah's historic squares, museums, homes, restaurants and other structures dating back hundreds of years.
The 22 historic squares, each located within the downtown historic district, provide common areas for public use and recreation, which include benches and shaded areas for picnics. They are mostly 200 x 200 ft.
The neighborhood boasts some of the best museums in the country like the Telfair Academy – the oldest public art museum in the South, dating back to 1886. There are over 6300 works of art ranging from American Impressionism to European sculpture.
The Savannah History Museum contains more than 10,000 artifacts dating back to 1733 when Savannah was incorporated. The Railroad Museum is a National Historic Landmark and is located in the former Central of Georgia Railway.
For a killer brunch, visit The Collins Quarter (don’t miss their Lavender Mocha either); for dinner head to a.Lure for low-country gourmet or B. Matthew’s Eatery for some southern fusion fare. A few perennial Savannah favorites include The Olde Pink House or Mrs Wilkes Dining Room. Local favorite Zunzi’s serves South African sandwiches of all types. People line up around the block at peak times for these sandwiches, especially the Godfather. Top places to stay in the neighborhood include the Alida or the Tryp by Wyndham.
Best for art lovers
About a mile south of Forsyth Park is the Starlands District. Though the streets are lined with art galleries and other creative establishments, it’s the beautiful homes and even office buildings that draw visitors in. Filled with character, there aren’t your average ho-hum residences.
When not marveling at the architecture, visitors also love taking pictures of the many murals found throughout the neighborhood. For the best tiki oasis (yes, a tiki bar in Savannah) you could ever hope to find, head to the Water Witch Tiki, named after a famed (and possibly haunted) Union ship that was burned off the coast of Savannah in 1864. Try the Banana Spliff made with dark rum, bourbon, banana liquor, Mezcal, bitters and smoked or the Witch's Stash made with gin, chartreuse tincture, pear liquor, agave syrup, citrus and grapefruit bitters.
Save time for a pitstop at Back in the Day Bakery to try one of the Biscones, a cross between a biscuit and a scone. Starland is also fantastic for shoppers, especially those with a penchant for vintage items. Check out The Cottage Shop and Graveface Records & Curiosities.
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Best for romantic getaways
The dreamy Victorian-style homes are abundant in this neighborhood, just south of the Historic District. Check out Ardsley Park, the oldest subdivision in Savannah, where you can catch a glimpse of classic Victorian architecture. For those who prefer a B&B over a huge hotel, there are plenty of delightful options to be found here. This is an especially nice area for couples on a romantic trip.
The neighborhood is also home to the 30-acre Forsyth Park, with the prominent white fountain, that’s the focal point of many visitors’ photographs. The luxurious Mansion on Forsyth is the perfect choice for an indulgent stay, while the Printmaker’s Inn is more subtle, though no less beautiful in its own discreet way, option for those who prefer a more homely feel.
For upscale dishes visit 700 Drayton – connected to the Mansion on Forsyth – and for a local favorite that’s more casual check out Betty Bomber’s for terrific burgers and sandwiches.
Best for nature lovers
Moon River District is just 20 minutes south of downtown. Here’s where you’ll find Skidaway Island State Park where you can walk the six miles of trails and later on visit the Wormsloe Historic Site also in the neighborhood.
This beautiful natural landscape is located between the village of Isle of Hope, which is bordered by Skidaway River, and the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge – one of the largest islands in the Savannah region. For eats, there are wonderful seafood restaurants like Pearl’s Saltwater Grill, Wyld and Castaways, which is dog-friendly.
Best for shopping
You'll find incredible restaurants, and a number of locally owned shops, just about three miles from downtown. The 12 Oaks shopping center, Habersham Village and Abercorn Walk are all fun options for shopping. Locals love the nearby Bella's Italian Cafe, Hirano's, and Bar Food in Habersham Village. For southern food, visit Sweet Potatoes Kitchen. The corn pudding and the homemade biscuits are always a good decision. Oh and please don’t forget the fried chicken.
In terms of lodging, you won’t find any boutique hotels in this neighborhood but the Hampton Inn and Fairfield Inn are solid options.
Best for families
Savannahians love Tybee Island. Located just a half hour's drive from Downtown Savannah, the five-mile beach town remains family-friendly, but in recent years has become a tourist hotspot. From the restaurants and bars to the shops and hotels, everything is casual on Tybee, whether you're looking for relaxation or a good time. Many hotels, like the historic DeSoto Beach Hotel or the full-service Hotel Tybee, provide direct access to the beach.
Tybee boasts a variety of casual restaurants that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters, from the Caribbean-inspired North Beach Bar & Grill to the superb lunch and dinner spot Sundae Cafe. The Crab Shack serves some of the best steamed seafood in town. A half-pound snow crab and half-pound shrimp make up the “Half & Half”, a heaping platter of food that will satisfy even the biggest appetite.
Best for getting away from it all
Some of Savannah's most desirable residential neighborhoods are located on its islands, which offer lovely marsh views and a retreat from the thriving city center. Wilmington and Whitemarsh are larger islands with thousands of residents, whereas Talahi Island is smaller and more rural.
About six miles outside of downtown Savannah, Whitemarsh Island (pronounced “witmarsh”) is made up of a series of islands south of the Savannah River. Nearby Whitemarsh Preserve provides hiking and biking trails.
Approximately 15,000 permanent residents live on Wilmington Island, roughly 11 miles northeast of downtown Savannah. Visitors to Wilmington Island can go on boat tours, fishing charters and Daufuskie Island day trips from Bull River Marina. If you prefer to stay on dry land, check out golf and other recreational amenities at Savannah Country Club.
A second island between Savannah and the sea, Talahi Island lies along US 80 (the Islands Expressway) near Wilmington Island and is about eight miles from the center of Savannah. There are fewer than 2000 permanent residents on the island, which is predominantly residential.
It’s a heavily wooded area and quite rural – perfect for those looking to get away from it all in nature. During the warmer months (March through June and September through December), the Islands Farmers Market operates every Saturday.
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For the first time ever, Lonely Planet's experts have compiled the USA's 500 most memorable, beautiful, surprising and compelling experiences. Ponder the scope of the Grand Canyon, delve into the history of a nation of immigrants at Ellis Island, or wander across architectural grandeur at Golden Gate Bridge. Where will you go next?
Wanda and David Scott fell in love with their Whitemarsh Island property separately more than three decades ago, each finding the charming 1938 marsh-front home on their own and rushing to tell the other of their discovery. They bought the house and moved here from Liberty County. The couple raised their three boys here, and now it’s where they continue to operate their marine survey business.As they walk out to their dock on a warm winter morning, it’s clear how in sync they are, not just wit...
Wanda and David Scott fell in love with their Whitemarsh Island property separately more than three decades ago, each finding the charming 1938 marsh-front home on their own and rushing to tell the other of their discovery. They bought the house and moved here from Liberty County. The couple raised their three boys here, and now it’s where they continue to operate their marine survey business.
As they walk out to their dock on a warm winter morning, it’s clear how in sync they are, not just with each other but with also this property on Richardson Creek.
Their shoes crunch on the dock’s causeway, an old-fashioned access grandfathered in from a time before the state enacted marsh regulations.
It’s a feature that makes the couple even more in touch than most coastal Georgians with how the water has been creeping up over the years. They plan dock parties around the tides so guests won’t get their feet wet. Lately the usual handful of impassable times turned to a long stretch.
“We had king tides and we had 75 days where every day this was flooded,” David said. "Seventy-five days in a row on high tides.“
And they have concerns that go deeper. Literally. Septic systems lie under the neighborhood yards, including the Scotts’. Halfway along her gravel walkway out to their dock, Wanda turned to look at their backyard, green with winter rye grass.
“It seems it makes sense to me that if septic is this close to the marsh and the marsh floods at high tide more regularly now, then ... a part of the septic is (in the) outflow.“
Septic, septic everywhere
The integrity of septic in the face of sea level rise is not just a concern for Whitemarsh Island. In Georgia’s six coastal counties, state officials have identified almost 60,000 septic systems, both disused and active.
Over the last decade, University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant compiled a comprehensive, electronic inventory of these septic systems to help locate and manage failing systems that threaten water quality. The publicly available inventory, called Welstrom, also serves as a resource for understanding private wastewater infrastructure.
Chatham County has the most coastal septic with over 12,000 documented, but these systems blanket the coast, servicing everything from mobile homes to mansions. On tony ocean-front Sea Island, 97 septic systems serve what real estate database Zillow reports is the highest priced zip code in Georgia, boasting a median home price of $2.4 million. Some of these tanks and drain fields are just steps from the beach.
How climate change threatens to overflow toilets
Septic systems send a household’s waste water — from the sinks, toilets, showers, the washing machine and dishwasher — into a buried water-tight tank in the yard. There the solids settle and the liquid wastewater flows into a nearby drain field where soil microbes treat it as it percolates through, ultimately discharging to groundwater or rivers and streams if they’re close by.
“To function adequately, you have to maintain a certain level of separation between the septic drain field and the groundwater table so that the effluent flowing to the drain field has space to percolate through the soil and be treated by all the microbes in there,” said Scott Pippin, a faculty member with the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
As climate change accelerates sea level rise, the groundwater is rising, too, along the coast. Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment Report. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by the year 2100.
That means coastal septic systems are getting squeezed. Especially vulnerable are the drain fields, which require a few feet of dry soil separating them from the water table to filter pollutants.
“And as the groundwater table rises, that separation is going to be limited,” Pippin said. “So the first impact is going to be less treatment of the effluent that comes out of the septic systems. So that's going to translate potentially into pollution transmitted to drinking water wells and other water resources that are nearby, but also into surface waters and wetlands and streams and beaches and places like where people might encounter it and have public health impacts.”
Sewers vs. better septic
There are solutions. Septic can work well to manage wastewater. It can be improved where sea level rise is encroaching on it. And sewer lines can be brought in where appropriate.
But coastal residents first have to recognize the problem, as some already have.
Wanda Scott noted where neighbors had improved their septic. A mound of earth in one front yard raises that drainage field a few feet above the high water, giving more room for filtering. It’s a solution more coastal counties are turning to.
She also pointed out a new development called Turner’s Pointe in the southeast part of the neighborhood. No septic there.
"In order to develop that property, the developer had to tap into the sewage lift station and that's on the other side of Highway 80,“ she said.
That’s another solution, though sewerage is also susceptible to the effects of sea level rise.
"Failing septic system is a relatively discrete source of pollution, but a cracked sewer pipe can be a much larger scale,“ Pippin said. ”So they're rarer, but they're bigger. And so it's a trade-off of risk that you're taking on.“
Nearby Wilmington Island saw the downside of that trade before Christmas when heavy rains overflowed a sanitary sewer, causing a major sewage spill of 60,000 gallons about a third of a mile from the Wilmington River.
The Scotts and their neighbors view Richardson Creek as their backyard playground, a place to crab and fish, even a gathering place. Every Fourth of July they jump off a nearby bridge together and enjoy a group float. The thought of human waste in the water appalls. They’ve been organizing to do regular water testing before it becomes a problem they can see or smell.
And it can get to that, said Jason Evans, interim director for the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. Evans worked on a climate resilience plan for Tybee when he was at UGA. Now in Florida he’s seen that state’s septic problems flow into local waterways, like in Oak Hill, Florida.
“I was just out there about six months ago and I was in this canal,” he said. “And you could actually smell the human waste because of the failing septic tanks. And so that's a really extreme situation there.”
This story, which is part of an occasional series, was produced in partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting with a reporting grant from the Pulitzer Center as part of its national Connected Coastlines project.
This article was reported by Savannah Morning News reporter Mary Landers and Emily Jones of GPB. Contact them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connected Coastlines is a nationwide climate reporting initiative in U.S. coastal states. The initiative is building a consortium of newsrooms and independent journalists across America to report on the local effects of erratic weather patterns on coastal populations using the latest climate science.
Currently, the Pulitzer Center is supporting 16 reporting projects and will cover climate change issues on every coastline in the mainland U.S. — the East Coast, Great Lakes, Gulf Coast and West Coast—along with Hawaii and Alaska. See the ongoing work at http://bit.ly/connectedcoast.