Ogeechee Riverkeeper's lawsuit over fish kill could affect company's investment

An environmental group’s challenge to a Georgia Environmental Protection Division consent order could delay or void a Screven County industry’s pledge to invest $1 million in projects benefiting the Ogeechee River, according to a company statement.


The order between EPD and King America Finishing was signed in September after a lengthy investigation into a fish kill in May in which about 38,000 fish died along a 70-mile stretch of the river.

The company did not acknowledge direct responsibility for the fish kill but agreed to address and correct violations of the state Water Quality Control Act that included the discharge of ammonia, formaldehyde and other substances into the river – and to invest at least $1 million in unspecified “supplemental environmental projects” that will improve compliance.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s Oct. 21 lawsuit contends state regulators were too lax on the company and asked that an administrative law judge throw out the order and force EPD to reconsider its enforcement options.

In a written statement, King America said it is disappointed in the Riverkeeper group’s challenge.

“Rather than work with King America in a cooperative fashion to develop water-related, environmentally beneficial projects totaling at least $1 million in the Ogeechee River watershed, the Riverkeeper has instead chosen to pursue litigation that appears to be directed more at the alleged shortcomings of EPD officials than an actual attack on the substance of a consent order,” the statement said.

Any progress on the improvements mandated in the order will be halted while the matter is litigated, the statement said.

The company said it is unaware of any actions that polluted the river or killed fish. State authorities have said the fish died from a bacterial disease induced by environmental stresses.

Low flows in the river and unseasonably warm weather might also have played a role, the consent order said.

EPD has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said Wednesday.

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