SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s been almost a decade, but many of us can remember a fish kill along the Ogeechee River that had people avoiding the place they fished or swam for years.
It happened for miles downstream of a textile plant that has a legal permit to discharge into the river. The fish kill led to changes to the plant’s permit and efforts to reduce what’s pumped into the water.
Now a local conservation group says they’ve found chemical levels in fish near there and they want answers.
The company emailed me a statement and their counterpoints to many of the group’s claims that chemicals from the plant affect the fish and the people in the river.
The Ogeechee River flows peacefully through Dasher’s Landing. Riverkeeper Damon Mullis says his group recently tested fish from near here and down river from the Miliken Longleaf plant. He says the fish had detectable amounts of polyfluoroalkyls and others known as PFAS.
“PFAS are known as “Forever chemicals” because they don’t break down very easily in the environment,” said Ogeechee Riverkeeper Damon Mullis.
He says Ogeechee Riverkeeper did the test because the plant’s requesting a new permit to discharge into the river. Back in 2011, under previous ownership, the plant was at the center of a major fish kill that left fish floating in the water and on the banks. Miliken took over the plant in 2014 under tighter regulations.
“The study should have been done in 2014. It wasn’t. It should be done now.”
We contacted Miliken for their reaction to the riverkeeper’s claims. It said, in part, “From the beginning, we wanted to do right by the river. Longleaf has invested over $5 million in new and improved environmental systems, and we worked closely with internal and external parties to refine our processes.”
Ogeechee Riverkeeper hosts a virtual meeting tonight to discuss their study and to urge the public to ask the state to require research on the chemicals. They want the state to tighten the regulations on what the plant discharges into this river.
“It’s just important to let EPD know much we love our river, how much we love fishing in our river, we want to be able to eat the fish out of the river. We want to protect it.”
That virtual meeting starts at 7 p.m. and you can join with the links listed on the riverkeeper’s website and Facebook page. And we’ll continue to follow this story as it continues.