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Screven County plant’s discharge plans spur tests that find chemicals in fish

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 11:54 AM EST
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SYLVANIA, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s been almost a decade, but people 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 south of Sylvania 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 it’s found chemical levels in fish near there, and it wants answers.

The company emailed a statement and its 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 Milliken 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,” Mullis said.

He says Ogeechee Riverkeeper conducted tests because the plant is 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. Milliken took over the plant in 2014 under tighter regulations.

In reaction to the riverkeeper’s claims, Milliken 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.”

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