SAVANNAH — Property owners along the Ogeechee River are challenging the tax assessed values of their land because they say it’s lost value because of chemical discharges from a textile processing plant upstream.
The property owners say the land has lost the qualities that attracted them because of chemicals from King America Finishing. The Bulloch County assessor’s office says the values of 26 parcels have been appealed because of the textile processing plant’s operations.
An EPD investigation didn’t tie the plant directly to a fish kill downriver from the plant last year but did find that the plant had been discharging wastewater without a permit. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division two weeks ago issued a discharge permit that allows King America to discharge substances including formaldehyde, chromium and ammonia.
Tommy Pope has lived by the river for 27 years. He said he doesn’t feel comfortable swimming or fishing in the river after about 38,000 fish died downriver from the plant last year. He’s frustrated by the new wastewater discharge permit.
“They’ve taken away the main reason I bought the property,” Pope said.
Another resident, Wayne Carney, said the permitted discharge turns his property into a “chemical dump.” He and at least nine other area property owners plan to appeal their property’s assessed value, he said.
“All I can do with that right now is go down and mow the grass,” he said. “I can’t even jump in the water after to cool off.”
A number of property owners have sued the company, said Lee DeHihns III, a lawyer for the company. Many of the claims of those appealing the property’s value are similar to accusations the company is disputing in court, DeHihns said.
“We have fervently disagreed with the allegations in those cases,” he said.
EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said the agency does not have a comment on the property tax issue, and referred inquiries to a press release about the discharge permit. A number of “stringent requirements” were included in the permit to protect human health and safety and aquatic life, the statement says.
John Scott, chief tax appraiser for Bulloch, said they are studying the situation by closely reviewing any sales activity.
“It’s so early in the game as far as tracking sales, it is difficult to ascertain what that loss may be,” Scott said.