RELEASE: Ogeechee Riverkeeper partners with Green Truck Pub for Earth Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
03/15/21

Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

Green Truck Pub
Contact: Whitney Shephard Yates, Co-owner
912-234-5885
greentruckevents@gmail.com

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER PARTNERS WITH GREEN TRUCK PUB FOR EARTH DAY
Event will showcase a new interactive map and burger special

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) is partnering with Green Truck Pub (GTP) on Thursday, April 22, 2021, in the parking lot of GTP, 2430 Habersham St. The event will be held from 5-9 p.m. and feature a live outdoor projection of a new interactive map of the Ogeechee River basin. GTP will offer a new burger special highlighting the celebration. 

Members of ORK staff will be on-hand to answer questions, assist with memberships, and demonstrate the new StoryMap. Using ArcGIS technology, the web-based platform integrates data, narrative, maps, and graphics to tell the story of the Ogeechee River basin and the Riverkeeper organization. The result is an interactive experience for the user. 

“We are in awe of the commitment of Ogeechee Riverkeeper to protect our shared river basin. Most of Chatham County thinks of the Savannah River, but in reality 76% of the county is in the Ogeechee watershed. Whether you’re paddling, drinking clean water, or appreciating the deep heritage, the river is a tremendous resource to our community and upstream communities alike. Green Truck has enjoyed a long partnership with ORK, and the StoryMap viewing is a fun way to showcase all of the good that ORK is doing.” 

ORK and GTP are committed to maintaining the highest COVID-19 safety protocols. This is an outdoor, ‘drop by’ event only. Guests are encouraged to visit the ORK tent while picking up a to-go order from GTP.  

The event is part of Earth Day Savannah Month (earthdaysavannah.org) and guests are encouraged to view their master calendar for other virtual or small outdoor events during the month of April. 

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land across 22 Georgia counties. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

About Green Truck Pub: Locally-owned, Green Truck Pub features coastal Georgia farmers and American craft brewers. We do simple food the hard way, from scratch, with love, every day. We are proud to be Savannah’s grass-fed burger joint, ten years and counting. www.greentruckpub.com.

PRESS RELEASE: ORK announces inaugural photography contest

Winners have been announced for the 2020 contest.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12/2/20
Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL PHOTO CONTEST
Multiple categories will put on a spotlight the beauty of the area

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) is soliciting the best photographs from across the watershed. Judges will be looking for images that highlight what makes the Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers, and the surrounding areas, remarkable.

“From the Ogeechee Shoals to the wide estuaries, pine forests to coastal marshes, our watershed is home to an incredible variety of ecological features,” said Meaghan Walsh Gerard, communications director for ORK. “We are also a habitat for more than 160 rare species of plants and animals. By displaying the amazing ecological wealth we have, we hope to inspire more people to protect it.” 

Photographers can enter in multiple categories: Landscape, portrait, wildlife, plant life, underwater, aerial, black and white, and funny wildlife. Since this will be an annual event each December, ORK requests that any images submitted be taken within the same calendar year. ORK hopes to see entries from across the 5,500 square miles of the watershed. 

Complete rules and submission guidelines are available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/annual-photography-contest. Submissions are due by December 20, 2020. 

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

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PRESS RELEASE: ORK finds dangerous PFAs chemicals in fish

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER FINDS DANGEROUS PFAS CHEMICALS IN FISH
PFAs are carcinogenic ‘forever’ chemicals that bioaccumulate in fish and other organisms consumed by humans

After Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) discovered that Milliken’s Longleaf facility was discharging polyfluoroalkyls and perfluoroalkyls (PFAS) chemicals, ORK initiated a pilot study to determine if these chemicals were bioaccumulating in fish regularly consumed by people from the river. Initial results show that all fish sampled had detectable limits of PFAS chemicals in their tissue fillets. These results are publicly available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/milliken. ORK will continue to make results publicly accessible as available. 

These fish were collected between the HWY 80 and I-16 bridges and included representatives from three species (largemouth bass, redbreast sunfish, and bluegill). ORK is continuing the pilot study and will be sampling throughout the watershed. The study will include other species of fish. 

PFAs are a category of manmade carcinogenic chemicals and are considered ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down in the environment and they accumulate in wildlife, plants and humans. “The chemicals build up in the fish, and then people eat the fish,” Riverkeeper Damon Mullis explains. “These chemicals have been shown to have many negative health effects, and eating contaminated fish is a pathway for them to enter our bodies.” 

ORK discovered Milliken was discharging these chemicals during an investigation leading up to the facilities’ permit renewal. In 2014, the facility was required to conduct a study to determine if the facility was discharging PFAS chemicals, and if found discharging these chemicals, it was required to perform a fish tissue study to determine the extent of contamination. ORK reviewed the test that was submitted, and accepted by GA EPD, as evidence that the facility was not discharging these chemicals, and determined it was insufficient. ORK now believes the facility has been discharging these chemicals since 2006.  

“These first results came from a relatively small sample,” Mullis said. “But it included three species and it’s enough to show that the chemicals are present and at levels that warrant much more investigation. We need GA EPD to require Milliken to conduct the robust study from a third party that should have been completed in 2014. And they need to do it before they issue a new permit to Milliken. The results of that study should be used to inform the new permit and how PFAS should be regulated in it. The health of the estuary, and the people that consume its fish and shellfish are at stake.”

The public can attend a virtual hearing on Tuesday, November 17, 7 p.m. and is encouraged to submit comments by Friday, November 20, 5 p.m. Links to register for the virtual public hearing and comment submission form are available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/milliken.

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

PRESS RELEASE: ORK to hold virtual annual meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11/9/20
Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

OGEECHEE RIVERKEEPER TO HOLD VIRTUAL ANNUAL MEETING
Program will feature updates, raffle, and nature photography

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) will hold its annual meeting virtually on Friday, November 13, 2020. The live stream will begin at 6:45 p.m., with speakers starting at 7 p.m.

The free program will include gorgeous footage from the most beautiful spots in our watershed, a special message from Georgia Writers Hall of Fame member Janisse Ray, updates on the basin from the ORK board chair and the Riverkeeper, and a raffle full of amazing donated prizes.

Raffle items include an original artwork by Betsy Cain, a private tour of Bootleg Farms, a prize package from the Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern, a handmade wooden cricket box, an adventure from Wilderness Southeast, a custom pet portrait, a two-night stay in downtown Savannah,  a handcrafted wooden paddle, a guided paddle trip, and more. 

Sponsors of the event include Queensborough National Bank and Trust, Advanced Metal Components, Chatham Steel, and Green Truck Pub. Riverrat Productions and Ogeechee River Boat Company are in-kind sponsors.  

Additional information, a link to purchase raffle tickets, and free event registration is available ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/annual-meeting.

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

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PRESS RELEASE: GA EPD poised to issue weakened Milliken permit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
10/20/20
Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
meaghan@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

DESPITE MULTIPLE CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATIONS, GEORGIA EPD IS POISED TO ISSUE WEAKENED MILLIKEN PERMIT

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) has reviewed the draft permit released by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD) for Milliken Longleaf Pine Facility which discharges into the Ogeechee River. ORK issues the following as its official statement regarding the draft permit, at this time:

On September 30, 2020, Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD) released a draft permit for the Milliken Longleaf Pine Facility, formerly known as King America Finishing (KAF).  

In 2011, approximately 75 miles of the Ogeechee River, downstream from this facility, experienced one of the worst fish kills in Georgia’s history.  

Following that environmental disaster, Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) held the facility accountable for its Clean Water Act (CWA) violations, resulting in one of the most stringent permits ever issued by GA EPD in order to protect the health and ecology of the river. 

Now, nearly a decade later, GA EPD’s new proposed permit puts many of those protections and safeguards at serious risk.

The draft permit eliminates the testing of many parameters and constituents (including formaldehyde and flame retardant (THPC)), and reduces the required frequency of sampling for many others. This is in spite of the fact that the facility has been found in violation of their existing permit every quarter of the last 12 quarters. In light of this problematic history, ORK is requesting GA EPD tighten toxicity requirements in the final permit.

It is ORK’s position that no parameters or constituents should be removed from the permit and there should be no reduction in the frequency of sampling or testing requirements. 

The facility’s unwillingness to invest adequate resources to operate within its permit limits is no excuse for loosening its permit requirements. 

In addition, the draft permit adds tiered limitations that would be based on the facility’s own, self-reported production levels. ORK is requesting that GA EPD base the permit limitations on levels that are protective of the river, not based on production levels the factory hopes to achieve.

A surprising development was made during ORK’s routine monitoring and a subsequent investigation. ORK discovered that Milliken is discharging polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl (PFAs) chemicals into the river. PFAs are chemicals that are known to have serious negative effects on human health and bioaccumulate in fish and other organisms that humans consume. 

One of the provisions of the settlement between Milliken/KAF and ORK after the 2011 fish kill required Milliken/KAF to perform a complete fish tissue study if it was found to be discharging PFAs. This study was intended to determine the levels of chemicals bioaccumulating in the river. 

On April 9, 2014, Milliken submitted documentation from a certified lab in accordance with that requirement stating that they were not discharging PFAs. GA EPD accepted the findings without independent verification. 

ORK’s independent investigation indicated the facility was in fact discharging PFAs chemicals. ORK evaluated the document submitted to GA EPD by Milliken, only to find that the method and detection limits used were insufficient to determine the facility’s use of these chemicals – in other words, the study itself was inadequate and flawed. Its results are therefore questionable.

It is ORK’s position that a fish tissue study — which should have already been required based on the 2014 settlement — must be completed before a new permit is issued. 

The public has a right to know the chemical levels in the fish that they consume from the river and the estuary it empties into. Additionally, the results of this study should be used by GA EPD to inform PFAs limitations and requirements in the new permit.

Milliken’s track record of multiple violations, inadequate evaluations, and inconsistent self-reporting illustrates how dangerous the facility is to the health of the Ogeechee River. ORK is asking GA EPD to issue a permit that prioritizes the safety and health of the river and its users, and not the desires of the polluter. 

ORK encourages citizens that share the goals of protecting the watershed and improving the water quality of the river to help in this effort by attending a virtual public meeting on November 17 and submitting written comments by November 20.

Further details, including a copy of the draft permit, information about the 2011 fish kill, and a side-by-side permit comparison, are available at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/milliken.

About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. At 245 miles long, the Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,000 square miles of land. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.