Altamaha Riverkeeper suing fiber company - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Altamaha Riverkeeper suing fiber company

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The Altamaha Riverkeeper is suing the fiber company, Rayonier, claiming the company pollutes the river and violates the Clean Water Act.

The riverkeeper said they have been working with Rayonier over the last ten years, trying to convince them to change the way they process their waste water. They said Rayonier has made some changes to that process, but it was not enough.

Riverkeeper officials said Rayonier pulls nearly 60 million gallons of water out of the Altamaha River each day, using it to produce TV screens, paints and even cigarette filters. The riverkeeper said when all the water goes back into the river, it's not meeting the right standards.

"'They are still using antiquated technology that was considered acceptable in the 1970s, but we are in the year 2014 and modern businesses like Rayonier are expected to clean up their waste water so that it has no impact on the receiving body," said Former Exec. Director of Altamah Riverkeeper Deborah Sheppard.

Sheppard said aerial pictures of the river reveal discoloration of the pollution that is caused by discharge from the fiber company.  Riverkeeper officials don't recommend using the water for any type of recreational activity.

"I was literally sick to my stomach; the smell is nauseating," said Riverkeeper Board of Directors President Gabe Marr.

In a statement to WTOC, Rayonier said in the last five years, they have spent $70 million dollars to clean up their waste water and reduce the color.

But riverkeeper officials say the water is still awful.

"What ends up going into the river is still a highly colored, very smelly, particle-like water," said Sheppard.

Sheppard said the aerial photos were taken this past November after the company spent millions to improve their waste water process.

Even though Rayonier said they are in compliance with state and federal regulations, riverkeeper officials believe the river could be dangerous to your health.

"I wouldn't even let my dog swim in that," said Marr. "That river belongs to everybody but not that area, that's not where you want to see people inhabiting it."

Riverkeeper officials believe there could be dangerous substances in the river, they have sent samples off for detailed testing.

The riverkeeper is hoping Rayonier will settle and come up with a more efficient waste water process.

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