Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which will appear in Friday's print edition. Numerous Bulloch County property owners along the Ogeechee River claimed that their property values were adversely affected by the 2011 fish kill. “King America has been able to make peace with the vast majority of its neighbors and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. The change in ownership at King America will not affect the few cases that are still pending in Bulloch County courts,” said Christy Hull Eikhoff of the Atlanta law firm Alston and Bird. Because of a reporter’s error, a front-page article Thursday concerning the sale of King America Finishing’s affiliated company, Westex Inc., to Milliken and Company, incorrectly stated that lawsuits against King America involved claims for health problems after the fish kill, but no Bulloch County property owner or citizen has ever filed a lawsuit making such a claim. The Statesboro Herald regrets the error.
The recently announced sale of King America Finishing's affiliated company will not affect the Screven County textile company's compliance with permit and testing mandates.
The sale also will not affect a consent agreement King America has with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to help protect the Ogeechee River from pollution.
Milliken & Company, which is based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and owns industries in several countries, announced Friday that it acquired Westex Inc., the Chicago-based company that owned King America Finishing, a textiles plant in Dover specializing in flame-retardant material.
In 2011, King America came under fire after a massive fish kill that left about 38,000 dead fish downstream of the plant, located along the Ogeechee River.
While tests revealed the fish died from columnaris, a bacteria, many speculated the environmental conditions causing the bacterial infection stemmed from pollutants in the river coming from the plant.
Numerous Bulloch County property owners along the Ogeechee River claimed that their property values were adversely affected by the 2011 fish kill.
"King America has been able to make peace with the vast majority of its neighbors and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. The change in ownership at King America will not affect the few cases that are still pending in Bulloch County courts," said Christy Hull Eikhoff of the Atlanta law firm Alston and Bird.
Ogeechee Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn said she expects King America Finishing will continue to work with her organization and EPD officials in efforts to comply with permit mandates, testing and compliance with a consent order that requires the company to fund ways to improve the river environment.
"We're assured all settlement and permit terms will stay in place," she said Tuesday. "We feel confident everything will stay on track."
EPD issued the consent order against King America in September 2011 after finding the plant was in violation of permits regarding wastewater discharge.
Also, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper sued King America under the federal Clean Water Act, resulting in a stricter pollution permit, more public access to discharge data and a $2.5 million payment from King America to the riverkeeper to help continue efforts to protect the river.
Since then, Markesteyn and river advocates have been satisfied with efforts to clean up the discharge and maintain proper testing method, she said.
The move will not affect the company's obligations to EPD or the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, according to a statement issued by Milliken spokesman Richard Dillard, adding that he is confident in the company's ability to remain in compliance with the new permit.
"We look forward to welcoming the Westex team to Milliken & Company," said Jeff Price, the president of Milliken's specialty fabrics division. "As we look to the future, we are committed to changing the experience for industrial workers with (flame retardant) innovations that further improve comfort and productivity."
Milliken, established in 1865, owns companies that produce specialty chemicals, floor coverings, and performance materials.
Westex, established in 1919, manufactures flame-resistant fabrics used in the utilities, electrical maintenance, oil and gas, and metals industries. King America Finishing employs about 50 people.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.