In a 22-page consent order prepared by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, King America Finishing Inc. 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.
“During our investigation, it was discovered that the company had added a fire retardant treatment process that generated wastewater, which was ultimately discharged to the Ogeechee River in violation of their permit,” EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said.
Although the cause of fish mortality is difficult to pinpoint, scientists think some of the fish might have succumbed to bacteria and disease after being weakened by a combination of toxic chemicals in the water. Low flows in the river and unseasonably warm weather might also have played a role, the order said.
Once EPD became aware of the unauthorized discharge, the company ceased operation. The division has worked with the company to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant, expand the monitoring program and restrict the hours that the fire retardant process is allowed to discharge.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the company’s discharge and will take further action if necessary to insure the safety of the river,” Chambers said.
The order requires the company to continue to comply with new operating rules imposed by state regulators, and to continue chemical and toxicity testing until further notice.
Although no civil fine was included in the order, the company agreed to invest at least $1 million in “supplemental environmental projects” that will improve compliance and better protect the environment. If the company fails to invest that sum on projects approved by the division, the sum would then become a standard fine.
Restocking of fish to the river is being managed by the Department of Natural Resources and did not need to be addressed in this order, Chambers said.
The agreement was signed by King America President Michael A. Beasley and EPD Director F. Allen Barnes.