EPD Set To Relax Permit For Ogeechee River Textile Plant

GON Staff | October 28, 2020

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has issued a draft permit—a final permit will come soon—that would relax testing requirements and discharge restrictions for a textile plant in Screven County with a history of damaging discharges into the Ogeechee River.

A 2011 incident at the plant near Dover caused one of the worst fish kills in Georgia history, and it resulted in stricter regulations at the plant. That permit is now up for renewal.

On Sept. 21, 2011, Georgia’s EPD announced that King America Finishing violated Georgia’s Water Quality Control Act for a devastating discharge into the Ogeechee that summer.

The textile plant was forced to pay $1 million for environmental improvements in the area and was subject to stricter monitoring of its wastewater discharge into the river. Now, the new draft permit issued by EPD would relax monitoring requirements.

The 2011 fish kill was described as a “death zone” that stretched from the textile plant’s discharge pipe for 70 miles downstream. WRD fisheries estimated it killed 60% of the bass and 80% of the bream, including the river’s beloved redbreast.

At the time, Tim Barrett of WRD Fisheries said, “The unusual thing about this kill was that it was across all species and all sizes. A lot of times you’ll have fish kills that are one species, or if it’s an oxygen kill the bigger fish will die first. This was all sizes, all species, which made us very worried. I knew this was a significant event. I have been working directly with the Ogeechee and Savannah rivers for 16 years (quote from 2011) as a biologist, and I’ve never seen such as this.”

In 2014, the King America Finishing textile plant in Screven County was sold to Milliken, based in South Carolina.

The Ogeechee Riverkeeper is opposed to issuing a relaxed permit to Millken. Their website includes info on how to attend a Nov. 17, 7 p.m. virtual public hearing on the matter, along with talking points regarding their opposition and information on how to submit written comments to EPD. Written comments are due by 5 p.m. on Nov. 20. Please address written comments to Georgia Environmental Protection Division, 2 MLK Jr. Drive, Suite 1152E, Atlanta, GA 30334, or via email at [email protected]. If you choose to email your comments, please be sure to include the words “NPDES Permit Issuance – King America Finishing, Inc.” in the subject line to ensure that your comments will be forwarded to the correct staff.

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