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Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 2:23am

King America OKs 3rd-Party Tests

A Screven County textile mill has agreed to pay for third-party water-quality monitoring of the Ogeechee River in southeast Georgia after a record-setting fish kill last year.

King America Finishing and the state Environmental Protection Division agreed the company would spend $1 million on what are called “supplemental environmental projects.” The extra water testing by a third-party will be one of those projects, though other details have yet to be decided.

“Normally, the permit-holder or the applicant or in this case, the person subject to the order, will monitor their discharge and provide the state that data,” said Jud Turner, director of the state EPD. “There’s obviously been some concern locally about that and some trust issues, and so it’s been suggested by certain stakeholder groups that there ought to be third-party monitoring done.”

People who live near the facility and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper have argued for the third-party testing. But riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp said she has reservations about this deal.

“We want the Ogeechee to have as much monitoring as possible. We do think that King America should have a third-party monitor,” Wedingcamp said. “But we do not think that it should be part of their SEP, their Supplemental Environmental Projects.”

Turner said King America already monitors its discharges into the Ogeechee, but these tests will be additional, independent measures.

“I don’t think they were obligated to do that and therefore it qualifies as a SEP. Now we can have a discussion then about how much of that million [dollar settlement] ought to be dedicated to it and that’s the kind of detail we need to work through. But it’s not my view that it’s going to be the full million by any means.”

King America Finishing and EPD agreed on the settlement after 38,000 fish died in the Ogeechee last May. Residents and environmental groups have sued to stop the agreement, arguing the company should have been fined more for unauthorized discharges that led to the fish kill. That case remains in court.