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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 1:04pm

$1 Million Settlement On Ogeechee

An East Georgia textile plant has agreed to pay a $1 million settlement of charges that it dumped illegal waste into the Ogeechee River.

State environmental officials, however, aren't completely linking the plant, King America Finishing in Screven County, to a massive fish kill in May.

Assistant Director Jim Ussery of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division says, there's no definitive proof the plant caused thousands of fish to die.

"The fish were dying below the King America discharge and they were not dying above the King America discharge," Ussery says. "You can draw conclusions from that."

The settlement, however, details stronger evidence that the company has been illegally dumping a fire retardant into the river for years.

The company has agreed to settle that charge by paying for $1 million of yet-to-be-determined river improvements.

"These are not things that they would be required to do otherwise," Ussery says. "These are extra things that they have to do to improve the river."

Examples could include riverbank restoration, pumping out septic tanks or improving river access through boat ramps.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper Diana Wedincamp says, she wants the money to pay for strict monitoring to prevent future health concerns.

"We're looking forward to seeing what their proposal is to clean up the river," Wedincamp says. "We do not want to see a proposal that is filled with beautification projects."

Wedincamp says, she is planning to meet with her organization's lawyer Thursday to determine how the settlement affects the Riverkeeper's lawsuit.

The settlement could end the lawsuit, one of two filed in the fish kill's wake.

The other lawsuit is from a group of citizens who live along the river and who allege damages from King America.