Local creek turned chalky white likely by kaolin mine

By: Chad Mills Email
By: Chad Mills Email
Kaolin slurry

A pipe busted and spilled what appears to be tons of what's known as slurry, kaolin in liquid form, near Warren County. (WRDW-TV / Jan. 2, 2012)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012

WARREN COUNTY, Ga. -- Reedy Creek runs from Warren County, through Jefferson County and down to Burke County, where it flows into the larger Brier Creek.

"There is a very significant kaolin spill out here; the water is chalky white," said Savannah Riverkeeper Science Adviser Frank Carl.

We joined the former Savannah Riverkeeper at the Georgia Highway 17 bridge over the creek in Warren County. He says that's where a pipe busted and spilled what appears to be tons of what's known as slurry, kaolin in liquid form. The pipe carries the slurry from the mine to a processing facility along the creek, and now there's a visible line of the soppy slurry from the burst down to the creek.You can also see a drastic difference between upstream and downstream samples.

"Kaolin, of course, you know, is a very fine clay, and it will stay suspended for a considerable period of time. And clay suspensions in the water, of course, are not conducive to aquatic life," Carl said.

Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus says it was probably kaolin mining that caused a fish kill in this same area in October. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources now says it was a low pH level that killed over 10,000 fish in Brier Creek. DNR says the pH drastically dropped next to a kaolin mine on Reedy Creek before flowing into Brier Creek.

Now that same concern exists only three months later.

"With the kinds of concentrations of kaolin that are in a small creek like Reedy Creek, there is a definite possibility for a fish kill," Carl said.

He just says he hopes the EPD will hold the correct party responsible. They still haven't fined anyone from the last spill, but Carl says the culprit is probably the KaMin Mine, because that's where the slurry is coming from.

News 12 went downstream from Highway 17 to the US-221 bridge. The kaolin has reached the water there. As of Monday morning, it had reached the bridge on Highway 1.

Bonitatibus says the mine did personally report its problem to EPD. She says EPD has been on site, too.

This time around, she says EPD did tell Waynesboro of the problem. They pull their water from Brier Creek. EPD failed to tell them last time.

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