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Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 10:19am

Riverkeeper Lawsuit To Proceed

A federal judge is allowing key sections of a lawsuit between the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and King America Finishing to go forward.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ruled Wednesday that the environmental group's complaint against the Screven County textile mill can proceed -- but only as it pertains to formaldehyde, ammonia, color and pH.

Wood dismissed all other claims.

The Riverkeeper last year sued King America under the federal Clean Water Act in response to a May 2011 fish die-off that killed an estimated 38,000 fish.

Wood is allowing a lawsuit to go forward based on the organization's claims that the company illegally discharged formaldehyde, ammonia, color and pH.

But she ruled that the Riverkeeper failed to give King America sufficient notice about four other pollutants.

"Plaintiff's [Notice of Intent] failed to provide notice that the hydrogen peroxide, total phenols, total suspended solids or biochemical oxygen demand in defendant's wastewater violated the CWA," Wood wrote. "Consequently, to the extent that plaintiff's complaint alleges violations of the CWA through the presence of these chemicals, pollutants, or wastewater properties, such claims are barred by... pre-suit notice requirement."

A state investigation after the fish kill revealed that the company had installed a new fire retardant line without first obtaining a discharge permit for it.

"We are very pleased that the Court has recognized the legitimacy of ORK's efforts to protect the citizens of Georgia and has upheld the heart of our case," wrote Emily Markestyn, the Riverkeeper's Executive Director, in a press release.

The company denies any link between its operations and the May 2011 fish kill.

A spokeswoman for King America Finishing's attorneys, Atlanta-based King & Spaulding, says the company's lawyers cannot comment because of the litigation.