Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp visited with members of the Richmond Hill Rotary Club on Thursday to present an update on the state of the river and a pending lawsuit regarding last year’s fish kill.
Wedincamp took time to answer questions from club members about health of the river, the 2011 fish kill, when more than 38,000 fish went belly up in the river, and the more recent fish kill when river landings in Bulloch County were under health advisories.
The state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) determined last year’s fish kill was the result of columnaris, a bacterial disease caused by environmental stress. But Wedincamp said she and others feel chemicals discharged into the river by King America Finishing in Screven County is the cause of the stress.
Wedincamp said contrary to many statements about the drought-like conditions playing a major factor in the unhealthy fish and fish still dying, the environmental conditions upriver from the discharge pipe at King America Finishing and downriver are the same.
“They keep blaming everything on the drought, but the (environmental) conditions are the same above (the pipe),” she said. “The water levels are low above (the pipe), but no fish are dying. The water levels are the same below (the pipe) and fish are dying.”
In addition to the discharge pipe at King America, Wedincamp said there are more than 50 other discharge pipes that cause concern from various municipalities and industries in the entire Ogeechee River basin, which spans from Greene County to Ossabaw Sound.
“This is extremely too many for the amount of water in the Ogeechee,” she said. “The Ogeechee rises and falls rapidly — but it’s always done that. Historically, it has done that. It’s not that this drought is the reason we have a problem.
“The reason for all our problems is because we haven’t controlled the discharges into a river that is a completely natural, undammed river ...”
Read more in the July 21 edition of the News.