Milliken’s announcement earlier this week that it would close its textile plant in Screven County will affect about 260 employees.
The Spartanburg, S.C.-based company said it would move the production lines of its Longleaf facility, which is located a few miles southwest of Sylvania on the banks of the Ogeechee River, to a plant in Cherokee County, South Carolina.
Milliken acquired the plant in May 2014 when it purchased Westex Inc., which operated the King America Finishing plant at the site at that time. In 2011, King America came under fire after a massive fish kill left about 38,000 dead fish downstream of the plant in the Ogeechee River. Regulators discovered in 2011 that King had been dumping wastewater into the Ogeechee for years without a permit, though the dumping was not blamed for the fish kill.
In a release on Wednesday, Milliken said the move to Cherokee County would “enhance operational efficiencies and increase production capacity.” The plant is expected to complete its shutdown by January 2023.
The company said it would offer jobs to the displaced Screven plant employees at its plant in Blacksburg, S.C., which is located on the North Carolina border, just southwest of Charlotte, and other locations.
Dorie Bacon, executive director of the Screven County Development Authority, told WTOC-TV in Savannah, “Milliken is our second largest private employer. So it’s certainly a huge loss to our community. Us, and our existing industrial partners in the region, are committed to finding them good jobs in the future.”
The Screven plant currently manufactures finished goods textiles, including flame-resistant fabrics used in the utilities, electrical maintenance, oil and gas, and metals industries. Milliken said it would continue to own and maintain the plant for the foreseeable future.
Damon Mullis, executive director of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, said the non-profit watchdog agency “considers the closure of the Longleaf facility to be an overall positive step for the health and cleanliness of the watershed.
“Milliken Longleaf is the only large-scale permitted industrial polluter on the Ogeechee River,” he said. “Our organization’s mission is to preserve, protect and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River. It is with mixed emotions that we receive this news, recognizing the long term benefits to the river while acknowledging the social and economic impacts to the community. We are pleased to hear that Milliken will be offering assistance to them and to the community. That said, this removes the primary source of industrial effluent into our river.”
Milliken said it would work to ensure its Longleaf Plant contributes to the ongoing well-being of the community for generations to come.
“(The Riverkeeper) will continue to carefully monitor the status of the discharge as the factory undergoes decommissioning and closure,” Mullis said. “It is our hope that Milliken will work with Ogeechee Riverkeeper to ensure that this phase-out process is done under careful oversight, and that the facility is decommissioned with the utmost attention to responsible waste disposal.”