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Effingham, King settle lawsuit

Terms not disclosed; more details might be revealed later

Effingham, King settle lawsuit

Effingham, King settle lawsuit

In this July 2011 file photo, then-Og...

SPRINGFIELD — An agreement between Effingham County and King America Finishing is under wraps, after county commissioners agreed Tuesday night to an out-of-court settlement.

Commissioners retained Savannah law firm Oliver Maner for the possibility of seeking a claim against the Screven County textiles plant. The plant has been viewed as the source for a May 2011 fish kill along the Ogeechee River. More than 38,000 fish were found dead downstream of the plant's discharge pipe into the river. Those fish were found to have died from a bacteria, columnaris.

No fish that died as a result of columnaris were found upstream of the pipe during that time.

"In the interest of avoiding the time, expense and effort devoted to outcome uncertain of litigation, all parties have agreed the best way to resolve this dispute is through an out-of-court settlement," Effingham County Commission Chairman Wendall Kessler said.

Kessler added that neither the county nor King America will have further comment on the matter.

However, the settlement could be subject to open records requests once all the interested parties have signed it.

"There was a whole bunch of places for a whole bunch of signatures," Kessler said.

In a special called meeting last week, county commissioners discussed the settlement during executive session, and they discussed it again during a brief executive session at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

"There were still some questions," Kessler said, "so we took a few minutes and got those ironed out."

Though most of the property along the river in Effingham is privately owned, the county owns Steel Bridge Landing where Georgia Highway 119 crosses the river, just across from the Bulloch County line.

A consent order was issued against the company but later withdrawn after complaints that there wasn't public comment or input. A new consent order required third-party testing of the discharge for 18 months and for the company to pay $1 million in fines to go toward supplemental environmental projects.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division discovered the company was operating a fire-retardant process line that the agency had not known about.

The state has issued a draft discharge permit for King America Finishing, which faced more than 60 lawsuits in state and federal courts as a result of the fish kill.

King America Finishing has been the target of more than 60 lawsuits in state and federal courts as a result of the May 2011 fish kill that affected 70 miles of the Ogeechee.

A number of those property-owner lawsuits were settled, and the terms were not disclosed. At least four are still pending, according to Bulloch County Clerk of Court records. Also pending is a federal suit filed by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper against King.


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