I hope everyone realizes that the word “environmentalists” in the title of this post refers to a broad range of folks down here in southeast Georgia, from groups like Ogeechee Riverkeeper to small property owners along the river.
From the Savannah Morning News’ State pulls Ogeechee River pollution permit, proposes new consent order:
State regulators today withdrew the wastewater discharge permit issued in August to King America Finishing and ordered the company to perform an antidegradation analysis. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is also proposing a new consent order for the company.
EPD is allowing the company to continue operating under the discharge requirements already in place.
A legal appeal of the permit by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper pushed for the antidegradation analysis, which allows water quality to decline only when it’s unavoidable to allow important economic or social development. EPD disagreed with the need for the analysis, but withdrew the permit to avoid further delays in issuing a final permit, according to a written statement.
[UPDATE: Click here for Mary Landers’ longer Savannah Morning News article today.]
This is a complex issue, and I’ll try to follow up tomorrow with a more detailed link.
After a massive fish kill in the Ogeechee River in May 2011, the textile company King America Finishing in Screven County was found to have been putting a certain pollutant into the river for years without a permit. And many concerned parties concluded that the company was directly responsible for the fish kill, although that was never firmly established by the EPD. Just this past week, a mysterious white residue along the Ogeechee has prompted another EPD investigation.
Given the persistent concerns about KAF’s discharges, many were outraged earlier this year when the company was issued a permit that allowed continue discharging pollution directly into the river.
The withdrawal of the permit resets the process and will likely ramp up pressure on King America Finishing to find ways to reduce the amount of pollution it creates.
Environmental advocates seem to believe that there is little chance that KAF can meet the standards required by the antidegradation analysis. Those advocates are frustrated that they had to go through a lengthy and expensive legal battle to — in their view — force the state to follow its own procedures, but they seem cautiously optimistic after this move by the state today.
There are other legal battles ongoing, including a suit in federal court and lawsuits brought by a number of property owners who are seeing their land values and quality of life decimated.