A recent fish kill in Middle Georgia’s Kaolin mining belt have the Savannah Riverkeeper and Altamaha Riverkeeper organizations worried about state authority management and oversight of industrial wastewater permits at kaolin-processing facilities.
Savannah Riverkeeper SRK responded in middle of October to a developing fish kill on Brier Creek near Keysville in northern Burke County, just south of Augusta, a tributary to the Savannah River.
Landowners on and around Brier Creek noticed the black water creek is usually stained, and the creek started to clear Oct. 14. That Saturday, neighbors noticed that fish had begun to die. The kill includes small to large fish of many species, with the number of dead fish counted near 10,000. “The biggest concern I had was the changing of the color,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, executive director of Savannah Riverkeeper. “That’s a serious shift to have something put in to settle all that stuff out.”
The City of Waynesboro, which draws its drinking water from Brier Creek, still had not heard notice of the fish kill by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division EPD. Waynesboro has now shut down water intakes and are only using wells for drinking water until further notice.
“Part of the problem that we’ve run into with this fish kill, which is very similar to the Ogeechee fish kill, is the failure to notify the public and let them know what’s going on,” Bonitatibus said.
Georgia’s largest fish kill happened in May 2011 on the Ogeechee River; scientists later discovered an unpermitted wastewater discharge at King America Finishing’s textile manufacturing plant in Screven County.
In September, Altamaha Riverkeeper ARK investigated a fish kill that began on Commissioner Creek and its tributary Little Commissioner Creek, central Wilkinson County, east of Macon. This fish kill also affected a nine mile stretch of several thousand fish of various species, sizes and ages throughout the two streams, from above McIntyre to below Toomsboro, turing the water a clear, acidic blue.
It was pretty striking 4000 to 5000 fish were killed, one of the things that can cause that appearance is alum, which is used in some settling ponds at kaolin processing facilities.
Among those facilities there, are two kaolin processors, BASF Catalyst and Unimin Corp., and a kaolin-related Carbo Ceramics plant, a Gordon sewage treatment plant and two Wilkinson County schools, according to EPD documents.
It is alot of discharge within the middle of Georgia and on small streams within a small area, in places where people fish and use the water for drinking.