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Ogeechee gains a famous advocate
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich announces Friday her plans to help the Ogeechee Riverkeeper with clean up efforts of the Ogeechee River during a press event at Loves Seafood in Savannah. - photo by Crissie Elric

A well-known environmental activist has breathed new life into the fight to clean up the Ogeechee River.

Erin Brockovich, whose legal work on a water contamination case in Hinkley, Calif., made her famous on the big screen, has pledged her team’s time and dedication to aid the Ogeechee Riverkeeper organization with testing of soil and water, and keeping the public informed.

She has also pledged to help assist the Riverkeeper in the case against King America Finishing, the Screven County-based textiles plant many river advocates say is responsible for a massive fish kill in 2011 that left 38,000 fish belly up  downriver from the plant, but not upriver.

Brockovich made the announcement to about 200 people during an appearance Friday at Love’s Seafood on the Ogeechee River in Savannah.

“We’re here today to begin to start doing an investigation in hopes that we can get some answers for you as to what has really been discharged, what is really going on, how we can help those property owners and find out the extent of this damage,” she said.

“We are going to dedicate our time to working with (the) Riverkeeper, working with agencies to find out the real answers, the real extent and what happened with this fish kill and the formaldehyde that is up and down these river banks. Anything that we need to discover so we can inform you to better protect yourself, that is exactly what we’re going to do,” she added.

King America Finishing has been the subject of much scrutiny since the fish kill. The plant was found in violation of discharge permits then, and since has had a new discharge permit issued, then revoked, by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. A new, more stringent consent order was issued recently that allows the plant to continue operating, but requires an antidegradation analysis.

Lee Dehihns, an attorney representing King America, has consistently said the plant has complied with all permits and regulations to which it is subject.

The Georgia Environment Protection Division has never officially determined a cause for the fish kill, though it has said drought-related conditions are “likely” the cause.

Brockovich said “people’s concerns” are what stood out to her most about the situation. After being contacted by many residents along the Ogeechee, she decided to help.

“(People) don’t feel they’re being told the truth so that’s what compelled me to come here,” she said. “I’m just like all of you … and when people take the time to write and rewrite and get involved and they want attention and input and inspiration, I come because I share in what you do.”

Read more in the Nov. 7 edition of the News.

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