A chemical spill in September at a Screven County textiles plant was no threat to the Ogeechee River, according to an attorney speaking for the Ogeechee Riverkeeper.
An investigation by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division was closed Tuesday, with no violations found, EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said.
Investigation results of the Sept. 26 incident revealed a spill of the chemical Pyrozol occurred at King America Finishing, a textiles plant in Dover that has been under fire regarding a May 2011 fish kill that left tens of thousands of fish dead along a stretch more than 70 miles long downstream of the plant.
Ogeechee Riverkeeper and many residents claim the textiles plant’s wastewater discharge is responsible for the massive kill, the largest in state history. Several lawsuits by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper Association and citizens were filed. Many were settled, but some remain pending.
On Sept. 26, a King America forklift driver “ran into two full totes of Pyrozol. Both totes were punctured and approximately one-fourth of one tote emptied and half of the other tote emptied,” Chambers said.
The spill was “no threat to the Ogeechee,” said Don Stack, an attorney with Stack & Associates, which represents the Ogeechee Riverkeeper Association. “Based on where it was in the place” the chemical did not spill into the ground or river.
Pyrozol is one of the chemicals used in the plant’s flame-retardant line. During the 2011 fish kill investigation, EPD officials discovered the plant was operating without a permit for that line; it remains under operation without permit today while EPD officials continue to review, with public input, whether to issue a permit for the line.
“A final decision is still pending regarding issuance of the wastewater discharge permit (relating to the flame-retardant line discharge into the river),” Chambers said Thursday.
The Pyrozol totes “were in a warehouse where raw products such as this are stored,” he said. “The material ran onto the floor and was recovered utilizing ‘floor dry’” (an absorbent product used to contain spills).
“It is thought very little, if any floor dry, ran into the floor drain but, if it did, the floor drain leads to the wastewater treatment plant,” he said. “Currently, King America has 20 drums of floor dry contaminated with waste Pyrozol waiting for disposal at a landfill, as it is nonhazardous.”
Christy Hull Eikhoff, a spokesman with Alston & Bird LLP, a law firm representing King America, said the company “immediately implemented established response procedures, and all of the spilled material was contained with an absorbent before it reached the floor drains that lead to the wastewater treatment plant.
“The absorbent was then placed into drums for proper disposal. In compliance with environmental regulations, King America has stored the materials pending lab tests,” she said.
There is no indication of any violation by King America, Chambers said. “There were no impacts to state waters. It did not get into the river (and there are) no indications of there being any dumping activity.”
Eikhoff said: “Routine independent water monitoring at King America’s discharge point and various points along the river confirms that the Ogeechee River was not affected in any way. EPD has confirmed that the company responded appropriately and that the company’s operations continue to be fully protective of the Ogeechee River.”
Stack said the Ogeechee Riverkeeper Association has been “working with (King America) religiously” to ensure the plant complies with testing and existing requisites regarding wastewater discharge. “We are pretty confident this (Pyrozol spill) is a non-issue.”
Ogeechee Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn was not available for comment Thursday. Stack said she asked him to return calls to her office seeking comment on the spill.
King America Finishing President Mike Beasley declined comment, referring questions to attorney Lee DeHihns, who represents the company. DeHihns did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.