Jefferson kaolin spill moving downstream

Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 10:33 AM
Last updated 8:13 PM
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A weekend kaolin spill in Jefferson County had traveled almost 20 miles downstream as of Wednesday morning.

“It’s beginning to settle out a little on top, but it’s still leaving a trail of white,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus, whose group has been following the event.

A ruptured pipeline, which has since been taken out of service, was the cause of the spill, which Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division said involved 679 tons - or 187,000 gallons - of kaolin slurry from a nearby mine.

The affected area is roughly the same stretch of Reedy Creek and Brier Creek where an October fish kill occurred, but no dead fish have been reported from the recent incident, Bonitatibus said.

Savannah Riverkeeper science adviser Frank Carl said there could be lingering environmental impacts.

“Kaolin is a very fine clay, and the fine particles can clog the gills of fish and aquatic invertebrates,” he said. “But the fish kill in October, that originated about the same place, may have cleared the stream of aquatic life so that the current spill may not do much damage in Reedy Creek, but could have an effect in Brier Creek.”

Carl also expressed concerns about the possible presence of surfactants - soapy chemical additives that help keep kaolin suspended in water - in the spilled material.

“Wildlife and domestic animals will not be harmed by the kaolin, but if there is a surfactant in the slurry, that surfactant should not be ingested,” he said.The New year’s Eve pipeline failure originated near the Georgia Highway 17 bridge over Reedy Creek. The company involved, KaMin LLC, is developing a monitoring plan to evaluate impacts of the spill.

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Little Lamb
47241
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Little Lamb 01/04/12 - 01:42 pm
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Kaolin has many wonderful

Kaolin has many wonderful properties that make it useful in so many products that people need and like. But kaolin does not exhibit the characteristic of being able to move upstream!

Sweet son
10785
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Sweet son 01/04/12 - 02:06 pm
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You know, I bet Reedy Creek

You know, I bet Reedy Creek hardly flows in the summer when it is very dry. I am with LL in the fact that kaolin has a variety of uses which include cat litter and Kaopectate. Get my drift! Riverkeepers might need to use some rather than making such a big deal about the spill!

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
9395
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 01/04/12 - 02:11 pm
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Maybe the two of you would

Maybe the two of you would have a different attitude if it were your drinking water that was being affected!

Bruno
780
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Bruno 01/04/12 - 02:19 pm
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CBBP, What? Do you take a

CBBP, What? Do you take a bucket down to the creek? Do you think they just run a hose from the creak to your faucet?

Little Lamb
47241
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Little Lamb 01/04/12 - 02:32 pm
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From the article: Savannah

From the article:

Savannah Riverkeeper science advisor Frank Carl also expressed concerns about the possible presence of surfactants - soapy chemical additives that help keep kaolin suspended in water - in the spilled material.

Isn't it just maddening when these armchair environmentalists cause worry and panic in the non-scientific public by bringing up red herrings like possible presence of surfactants in the creek? If Frank Carl has a notion that there might possibly be surfactants there, then he should get some samples and measure the surfactant concentration (if any) and speak from facts, not spout off the top of his head some vague "concerns."

It's the new way of environmentalism — feelings, not facts.

Bruno
780
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Bruno 01/04/12 - 02:38 pm
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Agreed, LL. As yet there has

Agreed, LL. As yet there has only been evidence of de-gritted kaolin which Mr. Carl admits, "...will not be harmed by the kaolin..."
As it stands now they don't even know if there are surfactants are present and if there are they don't know if those possible surfactants will pose a problem.

allhans
24144
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allhans 01/04/12 - 02:41 pm
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If it was in the Savannah

If it was in the Savannah River or Augusta Canal you would hear some different opinions. Reedy Creek is a wide stream that flows at a steady pace and has been a source for area fishermen through the ages.

I spent many hours in my youth sitting on the bank of the creek with my Dad or rowing until we found a good spot. Now this... What a shame!

itsanotherday
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itsanotherday 01/04/12 - 03:14 pm
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I grew up in Washington
Unpublished

I grew up in Washington County in the day before mining reclamation and there were a number of open pits full of water. As far as I know they were all completely void of aquatic life. We swam in them with no ill effects, but why the sterility?

burninater
9693
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burninater 01/04/12 - 03:16 pm
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LL, you're right -- if there

LL, you're right -- if there is an indication that there may be surfactants present (such as would be indicated by the fact that this material is remaining in suspension), then testing SHOULD be conducted.

But remember, testing isn't free. So who should pay, the polluter? That would be a sensible strategy. And how do you get them to pay when the damage is done to a public good with no clear private ownership? Government regulatory bodies with the power to impose fines based on non-compliance.

So in a sense, we probably shouldn't dismiss armchair environmentalism out of hand, as it is a powerful political force in maintaining the very agencies that have the ability to do exactly what it is YOU think should be done.

Bruno
780
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Bruno 01/04/12 - 04:40 pm
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Burninator, you are making an

Burninator, you are making an assumption that the kaolin is staying in suspension due to surfactants rather than the movement of the water. It would be a simple enough test and yes the company should pay for it if they even use surfactants at that stage of the process or if their surfactants are possibly toxic. Not all are.

my.voice
4930
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my.voice 01/04/12 - 05:37 pm
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Naturally, the kaolin

Naturally, the kaolin particle is extremely fine by nature, possibly the smallest of all the clays. Its going to remain in suspension like food coloring would to a glass of water. There will be some outfall impacts from it eventually settling, but its going to take time for that to occur. I doubt this will have a long term "impact" on the fish population. We generally see fish impacts in ponds and other "reservoirs" where water doesn't move thru and thus doesn't allow "contaminants" to flush. Its my opinion that a good rainfall event or two will dilute this to a point of safe return to normal.

middlegeorgiapeach
6
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middlegeorgiapeach 01/04/12 - 09:04 pm
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The EPD needs to learn how to

The EPD needs to learn how to monitor what they permit (King Finishing for example, dumped for 5 years and the EPD failed to know this even though they "inspected"). The problem goes all the way up toShady Deal, who just refused to re-appoint Warren Budd to the DNR because he was in line to chair, AND Budd thinks the EPD isn't doing its job.

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