The Environmental Protection Agency opened its West Central District Office today. It's located inside Columbus State University's Cunningham Center, and is the agency's first field office in the Chattahoochee Valley.
Employees are still getting settled into their new headquarters. Officials have been wanting an office in this part of the state for the better part of a decade.
"We've been trying to establish a Columbus office for the last couple of years and with the help of Columbus State University, we're finally able to establish a presence here," said Todd Bethune, the EPD's West Central Georgia District Manager.
In the past, field officers have had to drive from the EPD's Macon office to deal with local issues. They say being in Columbus allows them to become a part of the community, and become more familiar with the environmental needs of the region.
"This will allow us just to improve our response times, and to be more local for citizens and consultants, and local fishers to be able to come by and see us as opposed to coming over to Macon," Bethune explained.
As part of Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Division oversees water quality, waste water, air quality, and erosion control. Issues that will become increasingly important as the area continues to grow.
"Columbus is a very important part of the state, it's of course growing with BRAC and the realignment, and we know there's going to be a lot more pressures put on the natural resources here. And certainly having folks here on the ground will not only be helpful to the EPD, but to the community as well," said Jim Ussery, Assistant Director of the Georgia State EPD.