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Monday, August 27, 2012 - 5:02am

Land Owners Near Ogeechee Challenge Taxes

Landowners along Southeast Georgia's Ogeechee River are appealing their property values.

Residents say pollution has diminished their investments.

About 38,000 fish died in the river last year in the state's largest-ever fish kill.

The deaths were linked to the upstream King America textile mill.

Two weeks ago, state officials issued a permit allowing the plant to release a slew of chemicals like formaldehyde into the river.

Ogeechee River landowner Tommy Pope says, the pollution affects how he uses his property.

"I don't fish anymore. I don't swim anymore. And I really feel like my property value has been lowered greatly by this textile plant," Pope says. "I just don't know what else to say. I just feel like it's a great loss to me to not be able to use my property for what I bought it for."

Pope says, the decision could make selling his property difficult.

"These houses down here used to sell by word of mouth. They wouldn't even get on the market," Pope says. "But I feel like it's got a lot to do with this polluting of the river. No one wants to buy a house on a sewer ditch. It's a dumping ground for a textile plant."

Challenging property values based on the pollution could take years, since valuations are based on sales and the properties haven't been selling.

EPD officials say, the permit maintains strict requirements for the plant.

So far about 26 property owners are fighting their tax valuation based on the fish kill and King America discharge permit.