SYLVANIA, Georgia — The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued a new wastewater discharge permit Wednesday to a company that was linked to a massive fish kill in the Ogeechee River.
Stipulations of the agreement make the company's wastewater discharge protocols the most heavily monitored in the state, EPD officials said.
King America was discharging wastewater into the river from a fire retardant processing line without a permit in May of 2011, the EPD found at the time. An estimated 39,000 fish were killed.
King America produces flame resistant fabrics used in clothing to protect workers in the electric utility, petrochemical, and steel mill industries.
Drafting the new permit involved public comment and feedback, EPD Director Judson Turner said in a statement.
"The result will be long-term environmental benefits for this important river," he said.
The new permit limits King America's discharge of wastewater from its manufacturing plant to no more than 8 percent of the total river flow, Environmental Protection Division officials said. The company has also agreed to pay $1.3 million to fund environmental improvement projects to benefit the river, EPD officials said.
The Ogeechee Riverkeeper also dropped a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit against the company and officials said King America has agreed to pay the Riverkeeper $2.5 million.
"We believe the new permit will protect the river and this settlement provides the organization with the means to not only monitor the river on an ongoing basis, but also creates a process for discussing changes to the permit in the event any problems come to light," Ogeechee Riverkeeper executive director Emily Markesteyn told WSAV-TV.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources restocked the river with about 275,000 redbreast, 100,000 largemouth and about 150,000 bluegill after the fish kill. Despite that, some anglers have said they're avoiding fishing or swimming in the river for now because of lingering concerns over pollution.
Researchers from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro and the Southeastern NaturalÂ SciencesÂ Academy in Augusta will spend three years studying the river and its surrounding area as part of the agreement, EPD officials said. Plans also call for water quality monitors to be installed in the river.
"This truly will make the Ogeechee the most protected and regulated river in the entire state," attorney Don Stack, who represented the Ogeechee Riverkeeper in their lawsuit, told the Savannah Morning News.
King America President Michael Beasley told WSAV-TV that the company looks ford to working with the Riverkeeper in the near future.