King America Finishing will fund $1 million in environmental improvements to the Ogeechee River after a finding that the plant violated discharge permits to dump toxins into the river.
Following an investigation that lasted more than three months, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division found the Screven County textiles plant in violation of discharge permits as well as the state’s Clean Water Act, said Georgia EPD Assistant Director Jim Ussery.
Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp expressed approval of the EPD’s order.
“The pollution from King America Finishing is a serious threat to the health and safety of local families and river wildlife. We are grateful to EPD for acting on this situation,” she said. “We like the $1 million figure. It’s a warning bell that every other polluter along the Ogeechee River should hear loud and clear.”
King America CEO Mike Beasley declined to comment on the order, referring callers with questions to spokesman Lee Dehines, who did not return phone calls Wednesday.
EPD communications director Kevin Chambers said the agency executed a consent order Wednesday with King America Finishing “to address violations of the Georgia Water Quality Control Act that were discovered during EPD’s investigation of the fish kill on the Ogeechee River that occurred in May of this year.”
Almost 39,000 fish were killed on or around May 23, when the kill was reported. Thousands of fish were left rotting on the banks, and the river was closed for fishing and swimming. Some people reported illnesses including nausea, respiratory problems and blisters following excursions in the river at that time, but no illnesses were ever proven to be linked to any substance in the waters.
The fish were found to have been killed by the columnaris bacteria, caused by environmental stress, and it was suggested by some that chemicals from the effluent discharged into the Ogeechee by King America was the cause.
The EPD’s investigation revealed the plant did indeed violate discharge permits by releasing chemicals in unacceptable levels of concentration; by not conducting testing and reporting as required; and by not having adequate wastewater treatment procedures, he said.
Read more in the Sept. 24 edition of the News.