King America Finishing may now legally discharge wastewater into the Ogeechee River after the Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued a permit Friday.
The permit was issued despite public demand that the permit not be allowed, Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp said.
“We are disappointed,” she said. “Thousands of Georgians spoke out against the pollution from King America Finishing and begged the state to protect the Ogeechee River. Unfortunately, it appears that, once again, the state has sided with the polluters instead of protecting us from pollution.”
King America attorney Lee Dehihnes was not immediately available for comment Friday.
The plant has been discharging without a legal permit since 2007, and in 2011, when a colossal fish kill occurred, Wedincamp and others blamed King America’s discharges for the kill.
During an investigation following the kill, in which about 38,000 fish floated the banks along 70 miles of the river south of the plant, EPD officials found several violations in the plant and issued a $1 million consent order for the plant to fund river improvement projects. The consent order is on hold because of legal challenges by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and others.
Wedincamp said Ogeechee Riverkeeper is represented by GreenLaw and Stack and Associates in the legal efforts to stop the pollution and hold King America Finishing responsible.
“It appears that some of our primary concerns with the permit remain,” said Hutton Brown, an attorney with GreenLaw. “King America Finishing will still be allowed to discharge excessive amounts of ammonia and that the impact of this pollution on the river under drought conditions is not adequately addressed. We will be continuing our review of the permit and evaluating next steps with our client over the coming weeks.”
EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers released a statement Friday that announcing the discharge permit is effective immediately and is valid through July 2017.
The permit requires that King America monitor its discharge regularly, conducting some daily tests. Tests for flow, sulfides, sodium, ammonia, formaldehyde and peroxide must be conducted daily, using water from the discharge pipe before it mixes with river water.
Color must be monitored weekly, and a functioning alarm must be in place to alert company employees when the pH level is approaching limits.
No visible solids or foam may be discharged, and King America has been given deadlines for submitting a plan for compliance as well as actually coming into compliance with the permit.
The company will have from 30 to 60 days to submit various compliance plans for discharge of ammonia, formaldehyde and peroxide as well as other components of the effluent, and will have from 60 to 180 days to actually come into compliance with those aspects of the discharge, according to the permit.
According to EPD Assistant Director Jim Ussery, inspections at King America by EPD officials will occur at least quarterly for the first two years and more often if daily monitoring of the discharge indicates it is necessary. No further penalties are planned.