The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued a discharge permit Friday to King America Finishing , allowing the Dover textiles plant to legally discharge effluent into the Ogeechee River. The permit calls for intense monitoring, including daily testing for some chemicals, and gives deadlines for the plant to come into compliance with the permit.
The plant has been discharging without a legal permit since 2007, and in 2011, when a colossal fish kill occurred, Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp and others blamed King America for its discharge contributing to the kill.
During an investigation following the kill, in which about 38,000 fish floated the banks along 70 miles of the river south of the plant, EPD officials found several violations in the plant and issued a $1 million consent order for the plant to fund river improvement projects. The consent order is on hold due to legal challenges by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and others.
EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers released a statement Friday announcing the discharge permit is effective that day, and is valid through July 2017.
The permit demands King America to monitor its discharge regularly, conducting some tests on a daily basis. Tests for flow, sulfides, sodium, ammonia, formaldehyde and peroxide must be conducted daily, using waters from the discharge pipe before it mixes with river water.
Color must be monitored weekly, and a functioning alarm but me in place to alert company employees when the pH level is approaching limits.
No visible solids or foam may be discharged, and King America has been given deadlines for submitting a pan for compliance as well as coming into compliance with the permit.
This is the latest in a series of actions involving the river and the textiles plant.
Last month, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit last month claiming that King America Finishing has violated the federal Clean Water Act since at least April 2006.
The lawsuit alleges that King America Finishing, owned by Chicago-based Westex, continues illegally to discharge pollution to the Ogeechee River.
The cause of death for the thousands of fish last year, along with a few dozen more in May of this year, was ruled columnaris, a bacterial disease caused by environmental stress.
Wedincamp and many residents have stated in public hearings that they believe the stress was caused by pollutants, compounded by low water levels that made the concentration of those chemicals higher.
Administrative Law Judge Lois Oakley ruled that the Riverkeeper had no right to protest the consent order, but Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner ruled in July that residents, including the Riverkeeper, do have that right.
Chatham County veterinarian Joe H. McKenzie, Pike Lake LLC and McLaws Bay LLC also filed suit against King America and its CEO, Mike Beasley, as well as Westex, claiming damage to their property along the Ogeechee River.