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Judge tells river watchdog, textile plant to work together

POSTED: January 30, 2012 5:43 p.m.

A judge ruled the Ogeechee Riverkeeper organization must work with a Screven County textiles company to come up with an agreeable alternative to a consent order filed previously regarding improvements to the Ogeechee River.

After ORK filed an appeal against the Environmental Protection Division’s order in December, Judge Lois Oakley ordered Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp, along with others in the ORK group, to “meet with King America Finishing and work on a solution to the consent order, then return to her with our report on or before (Thursday),” Wedincamp said.

After the Environmental Protection Division issued a consent order in November for King America Finishing to fund $1 million in improvements to the river, the ORK organization filed the appeal.

The consent order followed an EPD investigation which found King America Finishing, Inc. in violation of its discharge permits. The investigation was launched in May after 38,000 fish floated to the banks for 70 miles south of the King America Finishing discharge pipe in Dover.

Wedincamp and many citizens pointed fingers at the textiles plant. The fish were found to have died of columnaris, a bacterial disease caused by environmental stress, and Wedincamp and others said chemicals the plant dumped, including formaldehyde and ammonia, caused the stress.

When EPD discovered King America was in violation of discharge permits, EPD officials ordered the plant to fund $1 million in river improvements. Wedincamp and others filed the appeal because they felt the punishment was not enough, she said.

The consent order did not outline specifics about the requirements and was not an adequate punishment, she said.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper also has a lawsuit filed against the EPD and King America regarding the fish kill. The court date is set for Feb. 27, she said.

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