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Some Ogeechee River civil suits still pending

But more than 60 resolved so far

Some Ogeechee River civil suits still pending

Some Ogeechee River civil suits still pending

At least four civil suits against a Screven County textiles plant claiming property damage caused by Ogeechee River pollution remain pending, while more than 60 such suits have been resolved.
In the aftermath of what has been touted as the largest fish kill in the Ogeechee River history, property owners along the river filed numerous suits against King America Finishing.
About 38,000 fish were found dead along 70 miles of river downstream from the plant in May 2011. After many pointed fingers at the textiles plant, which discharges waste into the river, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division discovered the plant’s fire retardant lines were operating without a permit.
King America Finishing continues to discharge without a permit while EPD officials review public input regarding a proposed consent order regarding the issue.
According to Bulloch County Clerk of Court records, 63 cases were consolidated in April by Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner and have been resolved by court action, mediation or dismissal. The case and resolution details are sealed.
At least four cases remain active in the Bulloch County Superior Court, according to court records. Records were incomplete and unavailable regarding a possible fifth case that may yet be pending.
Stephen and Denise Collins, of Guyton, filed a civil suit in the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Office Aug. 14 against King America, its president Michael Albert Beasley and parent company Westex Holding Company.
Their suit alleges King America released chemicals into the Ogeechee River, causing the death of mass numbers of “fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles, including alligators.”
The Collinses’ suit alleges the loss of wildlife, as well as diminished use due to loss of ability to fish or swim safely due to the pollution by chemicals discharged by the plant, has permanently damaged their riverfront property as well as caused it to lose market value.
David Bobrow, of New York, NY;  John Dickey and George Dickey, both of Savannah and acting together; and William Slater, of Eden, all also filed separate civil actions in the Bulloch County Superior Court Aug. 14 as well, citing defendants as King America, Beasley and Westex Holding Co., records show. 
These plaintiffs expressed similar complaints regarding loss of use, decreased property value and property damage due to the chemicals discharged into the river by King America Finishing, which were alleged to have caused the fish kill and related wildlife deaths.
Slater’s civil action, along with others filed, points out that “absolutely no adverse effects to aquatic life have been observed upstream” from King America.
While records remain sealed, many cases may have been resolved through a “comprehensive settlement agreement,” according to attorneys involved in some cases.
In a release issued jointly by King America’s attorneys and Oliver Maner LLP, representing landowners, “The financial terms of the settlements are confidential and cannot be disclosed by any party.”
In that release, Beasley expressed satisfaction with the resolutions.
“We are so pleased that we have been able to resolve this dispute with so many of our neighbors,” he said. “We expect to be neighbors for a long time, and we needed to find a way to peacefully share the same community.”
Oliver Maner LLP attorney Greg Hodges also said he is pleased with the settlement.
“We worked long and hard to come to terms that everyone could live with,” he said.
Hodges also said he is confident King America’s current discharge is not harmful to life in and along the Ogeechee River.
“It’s apparent to me that King America has made a lot of changes since the fish kill, and now has the most tested, monitored, and scrutinized wastewater discharge in the state of Georgia,” he said.
Local attorneys Gerald Edenfield, whose firm  represents King America Finishing, and Dan Snipes, whose firm represents some landowners, referred to the joint release when asked for comment regarding the settlements.
Some civil actions by Ogeechee River property owners were filed in Bulloch County State Court, State Court Judge Gary Mikell said.
While there may be more pending and not yet filed, he said Friday that one civil action with “20 to 30 plaintiffs” was filed June 7, and another civil action filed earlier this year is “in mediation.”

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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