The textile plant that caused a massive fish kill on the Ogeechee River in May will be forced to pay $1 million for environmental improvements in the area and will also be subject to stricter monitoring of its wastewater discharge into the river.
On Sept. 21, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) announced that King America Finishing (KAF) Inc., located in Dover along the Ogeechee River, violated Georgia’s Water Quality Control Act.
“During our investigation, it was discovered that the company had added a fire retardant treatment process that generated wastewater, which was ultimately discharged to the Ogeechee River in violation of their permit,” read an EPD press release.
KAF has a permit issued by EPD in 2005 authorizing construction and operation of two flame retardant fabric finishing lines, but EPD said it wasn’t notified by KAF about the addition of wastewater from the flame retardant finishing lines.
“King America failed to notify the EPD Watershed Branch about the addition of the wastewater from the fire retardant treatment process that was added in 2006,” said Jim Ussery, EPD Assistant Director. “The discharge from the Fire Retardeant treatment lines, which went to the existing wastewater treatment plant, was determined to be toxic.”
Apparently the illegal discharge into the Ogeechee was missed until the massive fish kill in May. There were six EPD inspections of the plant from May 2006 until the fish kill. In 2009, EPD issued a previous consent order because KAF “failed to provide proper operation and maintenance of the facility’s wastewater treatment system, especially during the evening and weekend hours,” which EPD said resulted in effluent exceedances for pH 10 separate times between February 2003 and July 2007. After that consent order was lifted, KAF again exceeded pH limits four times from June 2010 to June 2011. In December 2010 and January 2011, KAF exceeded effluent limits for BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), and in May 2010, KAF exceeded limits for phenols (a caustic, poisonous crystalline compound derived from benzine).
The EPD press release issued Sept. 21 read, “EPD has worked with the company to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant, expand the monitoring program and restrict the hours that the fire retardant process is allowed to discharge. We are continuing to closely monitor the company’s discharge and will take further action if necessary to insure (sic) the safety of the river.”
Last week, local agencies in Bulloch and Effingham counties issued warnings for people to avoid swimming and fishing in the Ogeechee River after several people reported blisters and redness on skin that was exposed to river water. A community meeting was scheduled for Sept. 25 at Dasher’s Landing near Blitchton to discuss health issues related to the river.
The Ogeechee Riverkeeper said in local news reports that results from tests they conducted in August showed higher than acceptable levels of nitrogen, ammonia, sulfates and extreme levels of formaldehyde, a key component used in the textile process.
Two civil lawsuits are pending against KAF because of its wastewater discharge into the Ogeechee.
EPD gave no details on how the $1 million would be spent. The Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) Fisheries Section is planning to restock the river beginning this fall — at a time when budget cuts are reducing services to sportsmen.