A Screven County industry will finance independent water quality monitoring along the Ogeechee River as part of a $1 million settlement that followed a major fish kill last May.
“It’s unusual — but not unheard of — for a third party to be brought in,” said Kevin Chambers, spokesman for Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division. “But a lot of details still have to be worked out.”
King America Finishing’s textile plant was the focus of a lengthy investigation after about 38,000 fish died along 70 miles of the river.
The company did not acknowledge direct responsibility for the fish kill, but agreed — in a September consent order with EPD — to correct violations of the state Water Quality Control Act that included the discharge of ammonia, formaldehyde and other substances into the river.
The order also required the company to invest at least $1 million in unspecified “supplemental environmental projects,” of which the water quality monitoring would be the first, Chambers said.
Development of those projects was halted last fall after a lawsuit was filed by Ogeechee Riverkeeper, which contended EPD’s consent order was too lenient.
Last month, an Atlanta judge ruled the riverkeeper group does not have legal standing to bring such a case, which cleared the way for the supplemental programs to move forward, Chambers said.
Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp said she is disappointed EPD would allow third party monitoring to be part of the supplemental project agreement.
“A lot of people wanted a third party monitor for that facility, but we wanted it to not be paid for through the SEP (supplemental environmental program),” she said. “That’s just giving them back the money.”