The Ogeechee Riverkeeper organization filed a lawsuit Friday against the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The suit claims EPD failed to protect citizens and honor their right to have input on a recent consent order against a textiles plant blamed for a massive fish kill.
In May, around 38,000 fish went belly up along a 70-mile stretch of river south of King America Finishing, a textiles plant in Dover, between Statesboro and Sylvania, in Screven County.
The public was warned to stay out of the water and to not consume fish caught in the river, but the warnings came days after the fish kill was initially reported. A private lawsuit filed by citizens against the plant claims damage to personal health from swimming in the river as well as damage to property and interference with use of property.
An EPD investigation found what some citizens suspected all along; the plant’s discharge included formaldehyde, ammonia and other toxic pollutants that are harmful to the environment and were being discharged in violation of the plant’s permits.
EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said Friday he could not comment on legal matters. King Finishing CEO Mike Beasley has also said he will not comment on the river issues or lawsuits against the company or EPD.
King America Finishing had been discharging illegally since 2005, and continues dumping pollutions in violation of permits today, said Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp.
“EPD left us with no choice but to file this lawsuit,” she said. “Citizens throughout the basin are simply outraged that the state not only failed to prevent this catastrophe, but is excluding those most impacted by the catastrophe at every turn. King Finishing seems to be … priority, not the citizens who live, work and play along the Ogeechee River.”
The Ogeechee Riverkeeper organization is being represented by public interest law firm, GreenLaw, and the environmental law firm, Stack & Associates.
Their suit challenges the September consent order the EPD filed with King America Finishing after their investigation found the fish kill started 50 yards downstream of the plant’s discharge pipe.
Wedincamp and DNR officials had already noted that point when they responded immediately after the fish kill was first reported, she said.
The EPD investigation revealed the facility had started two unpermitted production lines which were discharging into the Ogeechee River, as well as reporting violations and chemical storage violations.
The order mandates King America Finishing to spend $1 million on an unspecified “supplemental environmental project,” but does not require the company to pay a penalty, nor does it require that it cover the costs for the restocking of the fish in the river which was conducted by the state last month, she said.
Actually, the order specifically states the monies are not to be used for restocking the river.
“Presumably, state taxpayers will be responsible for picking up that bill,” she said.
Read more in the Oct. 26 edition of the News.