Georgia EPD and Ogeechee River Supporters Go Head to Head in Pub - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Georgia EPD and Ogeechee River Supporters Go Head to Head in Public Hearing

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EFFINGHAM COUNTY -

"I would propose to limit a division of government that serves little purpose other than to pamper and cronyism with corporations that are deliberately destroying our way of life. "

That is just one thing people had to say about the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and King America Finishing at Tuesday's Ogeechee River public hearing.

It was the first of two meetings to give those who live along the river a voice.

Folks have been waiting for a chance to give the Georgia EPD a piece of their minds and things got heated.

I even asked EPD representatives if they knew what they were walking into—because folks that live along the river are furious.

This all started in may of 2011 with the largest fish kill in Georgia history. A Screven County textile plant was fined one-million dollars for dumping some chemicals without a permit.

But many who live along the river had no say in what they thought the fine should be-- until now.

The consent order would divide the money into three different supplemental environmental projects.

One would pay for third party water testing.

Another would fund a Georgia Southern University river research project.

And lastly, contribute money to a Millen water treatment facility 15 miles upstream from the King America Finishing discharge pipe.

Unacceptable, laughable and irresponsible were just a few words used to describe the $1 million King America Finishing fine; residents call it a "slap on the wrist."

"If a company is refusing to be compliable, or failing to comply with any final order of the director, they shall be liable, for a civil penalty of no more than 50 thousand dollars per day--- for each day that the violation continues," says one woman.

"Now according to my calculations, I'm no math student, but that equals 18 million 250 thousand dollars per year."

Those who live along the Ogeechee say it will never be the same and the money should go to cleaning up their property and restoring the river.

Ogeechee Neighbor, Wayne Carney brought some of the algae that are now growing all over the river's surface.

"This is what your kids are going to be walking in when you go the beaches down here. This is what you are going to be swimming in. This is what's in store for everyone along the river from now on, or at least as long as these guys are in charge."

What most of us would call anger, EPD spokesman, Jeff Larson calls passion. He says its needed desperately.

"They are assets. I applaud their passion, but the same token, we are obligated to operate and enforce the laws we operate under. Those laws are designed to protect the environment and protect safety."

But these Ogeechee champions say they aren't buying it.

I asked Larson, "What do you have to say to people that don't think is doing their job and should they believe anything EPD says?"

"I'm sorry they feel that way," he responded.

"We are going to continue to educate people locally answer their questions and hopefully move forward with this situation."

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