The Ogeechee River is cleared for fishing and swimming after tests showed no dangerous chemical levels, Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said.
But Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp said she would not take her children fishing or swimming in the river below a textiles plant discharge pipe.
King America Finishing, a plant in Dover that discharges wastewater into the river, has been accused by Wedincamp, residents and others of contributing to the cause of a massive fish kill in May 2011.
An advisory against swimming in the waters or eating fish from the river was issued last month after dead fish surfaced again this Memorial Day weekend.
Both times, columnaris was listed as the cause of death for the fish. In 2011, more than 38,000 fish died. This year, only about a dozen were found dead. Columnaris is a bacterial disease caused by environmental stress.
“I participated in a conference call today with representatives from the (Environmental Protection Division) concerning the recent advisory posted on the Ogeechee River,” Wynn said in an email sent Wednesday.
During the call, EPD officials said “ … recent testing of the water from the river at and below the discharge pipe at King America reveals no acute toxicity or anything that would prohibit the public from using the river,” Wynn said. “As a result of this information, Bulloch County EMA lifts the most recent advisory. Hopefully, the rains we have been experiencing will continue to improve conditions in the river.”
Wedincamp said King America “continues to allow an unpermitted discharge with pollutants” and said latest tests by her organization show extremely high levels of ammonia. Earlier tests have shown very high levels of formaldehyde and other dangerous chemicals, she said.
”As a mom, would I take my kids fishing and eat fish from the river? No,” Wedincamp said. “The fish have high mercury levels, and we don’t know what kind of effect chemicals from King America’s discharge has on the fish.”
She reminded people to continue to report any unusual or disturbing issues with the river.
Wynn said the advisory was lifted because EPD did not discover anything dangerous in the river water it tested.
“I appreciate the public’s patience during this ongoing issue, and always know public safety is our chief concern,” Wynn said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.