Judge sides with Ogeechee Riverkeeper, invalidating “state’s weak punishment” of textile manufacturer

There was a major fish kill in the Ogeechee River in 2011 and another serious incident this year. I don’t know the extent to which folks have been following this outside our corner of the state, but it’s been big news around Savannah.

Citizens across the political spectrum have called on state regulators to do more to penalize King America Finishing in Screven County. Though the EPD could not definitively link the company to the fish kills, the investigation found that “the company had been illegally discharging from a fire retardant line for five years.”

That quote is from a fairly extensive piece in the Savannah Morning News this evening, Judge throws out Ogeechee River fish kill fix. From that piece:

A Bulloch County Superior Court judge sided with the Ogeechee Riverkeeper Monday, invalidating what many see as the state’s weak punishment of textile processor King America Finishing and upholding the right of the nonprofit to challenge the EPD’s actions.

In his four-page decision Judge John R. Turner wrote “it is the finding of this Court that the Consent Order is invalid for a lack of public hearing and that the Ogeechee Riverkeeper has standing to bring this action.”

Turner remanded the case to the administrative law judge.

In a press release on its website, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper notes in part:

Judge Turner’s ruling stated “[t]he Consent Order referenced not only a laundry list of violations, but also found that KAF’s discharge from their facility produced objectionable conditions which interfered with legitimate water use in violation of Georgia law’ and “[r]ather than make an affirmative finding and/or take enforcement action against KAF for its violations, the EPD entered into a Consent Order which has not corrected the harmful actions of KAF.”

12 comments

  1. oompaloompa says:

    Thank you Bill for posting this.

    As for GA 12 candidates, I know Maria Sheffield has expressed concerned and has been sympathetic to the activist groups trying to raise awareness. As to the others, I am not aware of any interest. Not to say that there isn’t any, just none that I am aware. If we could get all of the south Georgia state reps involved instead of focusing on the feds for now, we would consider that a step in the right direction. A few state reps have openly stated, “well, what about the jobs at the plant?” Some have even offered tours of the plant to give “leadership” a broader view of what is going on. What they need to understand is that King America HAS the capability to wash their water before dumping it into the Ogeechee. So that means – guess what? MORE jobs for the Screven/Bulloch/Effingham – if they were REQUIRED by EPD to wash it first. Sure – less money for KAF – but MORE money for the community. So why is the state so hesitant to step in???

    This is a massive victory for the riverkeeper. It will bring more media exposure and hopefully send a message to Nathan Deal that the community is not going to turn a blind eye to the fish kills and swimming/fishing advisories on our river in south Georgia. To date, Mr. Deal’s involvement has been zero, zilch, nada. Meanwhile Chicago continues to pump pollution into Georgia’s water.

    Mr. Deal had no problem shutting down a paper mill in north georgia (I think it was a paper mill – I could be wrong – the air was polluted, I know that much) after only 300 complaints. To date, the community activists in south Georgia – counting letters to the news editors, calls to the Governor, calls to the EPD, calls to KAF, letters to KAF, letters to the EPD, letters to the Governor – have logged over 4,000 complaints. FOUR THOUSAND complaints. Yet we have had no relief from any government official. The only progress that has been made is at the sole hands of the citizens and the riverkeeper. Why does Nathan Deal hate South Georgia???

  2. Bloodhound says:

    Most of us in North Georgia do not understand the importance of this river to Georgia and her economy. Nor do we understand the ecology and flow of that river and its importance to the coastal estuaries that feeds one of the most fertile salt marshes on the planet.

    As ‘conservatives’ we tend to shy away from such issues and are far to quick to label those who do strive to protect these critical resources as ‘ bunny huggers’. We forget that the root of the word ‘conservation’ and our treasured handle share the same head.

    The few jobs which may or may not be impacted at the King plant pale in comparison to the jobs that rely on the economic engine that are Georgia’s Coast.

    At the point of King’s toxic discharge into the river it, at times under the new EPD permit, may make up as much as 25% of the total flow of the river.

    The Ogeechee Watershed drains over 5,000 square mile of Georgia into our coast and with that percentage fouled, by just one entity, our coastal resources will be greatly degraded.

    As stated previously, King America does have the facility required to clean the water prior to discharge. It is incumbent upon Gov. Deal’s EPD to make them use the capability already in place.

    • Agreed. Here’s a libertarian take on the situation. Think of it in regards to property rights. Do those downstream have the right to not have their land polluted by the toxins discharged from KAF? It would be one thing if KAF was polluting its own property. The moment the toxins leave their property they begin infringing upon the rights of others.

  3. oompaloompa says:

    Ogeechee Riverkeeper filed their federal lawsuit yesterday against KAF, stating KAF is in violation of the Clean Water Act.

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