Tue., July 24, 2012 11:48am (EDT)

Judge Sides With Riverkeeper On Deal
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 2 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Thousands of dead fish fouled the Ogeechee River last year.  The fish all died downstream of the King America Finishing textile mill in Screven County.  (photo Savannah Riverkeeper)
Thousands of dead fish fouled the Ogeechee River last year. The fish all died downstream of the King America Finishing textile mill in Screven County. (photo Savannah Riverkeeper)
A Superior Court judge in southeast Georgia's Bulloch County says, the public has a right to comment on a consent order issued after a massive fish kill in the Ogeechee River.

The decision also upholds environmentalists' right to challenge the order.

The Environmental Protection Division could have fined the King America textile mill in Screven County $90 million for illegally dumping waste into the river.

Instead, agency and company officials met privately and agreed the company would fund $1 million in unspecified river improvement projects.

Lawyer Hutton Brown represents Ogeechee Riverkeeper and successfully argued that a lower court should've made EPD seek public input before the agency issued the order.

"The administrative law judge said that this was not required to be put out for comment and she got reversed on that," Brown says. "So the administrative law judge will have to send this consent order back to EPD to follow the law regarding public participation."

Brown says, the Riverkeeper will challenge the order if it's not strong enough.

"Unless it gets sent back and is improved so significantly that it meets our client's expectations, then yes, the Riverkeeper will absolutely assert what's necessary to make sure that this whole process is proper," Brown says.

Last year's fish kill was the largest in Georgia history.