In a consent order criticized by some as being too lax, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division proposed $1 million in penalties against King America Finishing over violations discovered after 38,000 fish died along 70 miles of the river in May 2011.
EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said the agency received 34 written comments, along with opinions shared by 38 speakers at a March 5 public hearing, before the comment period officially closed March 15.
Also submitted was a petition with 2,225 signatures opposing the Screven County industry’s permit to continue discharging treated wastewater into the river, he said, but the proposed consent order was not mentioned in the petition.
After all the comments are evaluated, the agency will determine whether any changes are warranted in the order, which requires – among other things – that King America finance $1 million in “supplemental environmental projects” to improve and protect water quality.
The centerpiece of that proposal involves paying Georgia Southern University $766,391 to study the river’s ecology and monitor its water quality.
However, officials with the Augusta-based Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy told regulators its successful programs on the Savannah River make it a better candidate for the Ogeechee project and have asked that it be chosen for the project instead.
Chambers was unsure when any final rulings would be made, but he said the officials requested a court reporter’s transcript from the hearing be expedited so the matter can be addressed soon.