PRESS RELEASE: Milliken announces closure of facility located on the Ogeechee River

Contact: Meaghan Walsh Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director

Facility plans to move its manufacturing process in Sylvania to South Carolina

On July 13, 2022, Milliken & Company announced the closure of the Longleaf plant located on the Ogeechee River in Screven County, Georgia. 

Milliken purchased the former King America Finishing plant in 2014, along with its existing permit to discharge treated industrial effluent into the Ogeechee River, one of the last remaining free-flowing blackwater rivers in the nation. Beginning in early 2015, in an effort to modernize the existing and outdated plant, Milliken undertook extensive renovation and capital improvements of the facility. 

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) considers the closure of the Longleaf facility to be an overall positive step for the health and cleanliness of the watershed, while acknowledging the impacts to the local economy that such a closure will necessitate. 

“Milliken Longleaf is the only large-scale permitted industrial polluter on the Ogeechee River,” said Damon Mullis, Executive Director and Riverkeeper. “Our organization’s mission is to preserve, protect and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River. It is with mixed emotions that we receive this news, recognizing the long term benefits to the river while acknowledging the social and economic impacts to the community. That said, this removes the primary source of industrial effluent into our river.”

“We know this will be a difficult time for the families affected, so we are pleased to hear that Milliken will be offering assistance to them and to the community,” Mullis added. According to Milliken’s press release, approximately 260 employees will be offered positions at other company locations. For those who do not wish to transfer, Milliken has offered to help connect associates with competitive jobs in the immediate area. 

Milliken has stated they will continue to own the Longleaf property for the foreseeable future.  “ORK will continue to carefully monitor the status of the discharge as the factory undergoes decommissioning and closure. It is our hope that Milliken will work with Ogeechee Riverkeeper to ensure that this phase-out process is done under careful oversight, and that the facility is decommissioned with the utmost attention to responsible waste disposal, ensuring long-term sustainability and avoiding unnecessary contamination or further negative impacts to the fragile Ogeechee River ecosystem.” Mullis continued. 

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. The Canoochee River is about 108 miles long and the Ogeechee River itself is approximately 245 miles long. The Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,500 square miles across 22 counties in Georgia. More at

PDF of press release

Scavenger Hunt


Ogeechee Riverkeeper encourages you to get out and explore the Ogeechee and Canoochee watershed. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to photograph the items on this list. All are welcome to play for fun, but there are prizes for those that wish to compete.

Players get 1 point for each item found. An additional point is earned if the player correctly identifies the specific item. Example: A feather (1 pt). Identifies as barred owl (1 additional pt). Points are cumulative. There are no deductions for items not found or misidentified; they are simply points not earned.

Submit photo(s) to In your email, include your checklist and any identifiers for extra points along with your total of your points. Post and tag your images with the what3words locations for double points.

The three players with the most points will win an exclusive ORK and what3words prize package!

Photograph these items (1 point each). Identify these items (1 additional point each). Possible total: 20 points.

    • Wildflowers
    • Pinecone
    • Berries
    • Vine
    • Seeds or seed pod
    • Bird nest
    • Insect
    • Feather
    • Unusual shaped leaf
    • Acorn or other nuts

Photograph these items (1 point each). Identify location of these items (1 additional point each). Possible total: 28 points.

    • Ponded area in a creek
    • Animal hole in the ground
    • Spider web
    • Bird nest
    • Hole in a tree
    • Animal tracks
    • Eroded soil
    • Stream or creek
    • Dew on a flower or leaf
    • Rocks with many colors
    • Y-shaped twig
    • Sunlight coming through trees
    • Trail marker
    • Fungus on a tree

Download a PDF of the checklist.

Bonus points:

Two additional points will be awarded to player with most artistic arrangement of items in their photo submission.

Maximum possible: 50 points
or 100 points if all items are posted and tagged using what3words.


Submissions must be received by Thursday, June 30, noon EST for consideration in the competition.

To be considered for double points, images must be posted on user’s social media, tagging “Ogeechee Riverkeeper” and “@what3words”. Image(s) should include the what3words address

Submitted images may be used by ORK on social media. By submitting photos, players agree to let ORK and/or what3words re-share these images. ORK will contact winners using submission email address.

Remember: do not disturb any animals, feathers, insects, or nests, or touch any unknown plants. Do not trespass on private property. Take ONLY photos.

Have fun!

Ogeechee River protected from a quarry in Hancock Co.

STATEMENT: Wednesday, March 24, 2021, 6:30 P.M.

This evening the Hancock County Commission voted to deny the zoning permit application for a proposed quarry. The permit would have allowed Mayfield Natural Resources to open a gravel quarry in Hancock County which would have endangered the health of their community. 

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) opposed the quarry development due to its proximity to the Ogeechee River, and possible adverse effects on water quality, potential damage to the aquifer that locals use for drinking water, and likelihood of it becoming a pollution source. 

In addition, ORK has been working with local residents for the past four months to help citizens mount robust opposition. While residents’ reasons vary, concerns included complications from silica dust, negative health effects to livestock, infrastructure damage, social and housing inequities, disturbance to local businesses and tourism industry, historic property damage, and more. 

Thank you to Stack and Associates for representing the concerns of ORK and the citizens whose way of life would have been negatively impacted. Thank you to the commissioners for listening to the concerns of their constituents.

Thank you to everyone who helped get this across the finish line. Whether you signed the petition, spoke to a neighbor, donated to the effort, or wrote a letter — it all matters. Your relentless efforts to protect the river and the watershed from dangerous development worked. 

You helped keep the Ogeechee River clean and safe.

In the News

WGXA-TV (Macon)

41NBC-TV (Macon)

A company called Mayfield Natural Resources, LLC, has applied for a special use permit to open a new gravel quarry in Hancock Co. Ogeechee Riverkeeper and the citizens in the area have a number of concerns regarding this proposed quarry.

Read ORK’s official Development of Regional Impact comments

Donate to the effort

The petition closed with more than 2,000 signatures

In summary:

  • This proposed quarry would pose an everlasting threat to the health of our basin, based on its proximity to Fulsome Creek and the Ogeechee River. Additionally, citizens in the area are reliant on groundwater for drinking.
  • Within a few miles of the proposed site are multiple small businesses in the agricultural and tourism industries that would be negatively impacted by quarry blasting and heavy equipment.
  • Mayfield Properties, a community of 50 low-income families and home to ~150 individuals, is located directly across from the proposed location.
  • The additional infrastructure expenses incurred by the county will add additional expenses and reduce property tax revenue due to depressed property values.
  • These types of quarries have a history of struggling to manage silica dust and sedimentation.
  • There is a lack of information on company’s experience and qualifications in operating gravel quarries.


Tannins and blackwater rivers

View of the blackwater on the Ogeechee River

The Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers are considered ‘blackwater’ rivers. 

A blackwater river is typically a slow-moving waterway flowing through forests, swamps, or wetlands. As vegetation decays, tannins seep into the ground water or drain into lakes and streams, making a transparent, acidic water that is darkly stained, resembling black tea. Because of this blackwater rivers typically have a lower (more acidic) pH level.

Tannins are found commonly in the bark of trees, wood, leaves, buds, stems, fruits, seeds, and roots, and help to protect the individual plant species. For example, tannins stored in the bark of trees protect the tree from being infected by bacteria or fungi. Similar properties are extended to the waterways as it seeps into the river.

Additionally, less light penetration due to the darker water colors, means these waterways generally have less vegetation in the water. However, algae blooms can happen when there is a drought, which lowers the water level and allows sunlight to reach the bottom of the riverbed.

Swimming in a blackwater river

Tannins are also found in wine, tea, and berries, and are safe for human consumption. Historians note that early colonists and mariners would fill casks from blackwater rivers. In the days before treated water sources, it was a safer, healthier alternative. They didn’t understand that this water carried fewer microbes because of its chemical makeup, but they knew it worked. 

Blackwater streams also have high levels of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) due to the breakdown of the same plant material that cause the tannins. Because of this, blackwater rivers usually have high levels of (harmless) bacteria that feed on the DOC, causing a low oxygen levels.

The term tannin is from the Latin tannum and refers to the use of oak and other bark in tanning hides into leather. Scientifically, it refers to any large polyphenolic compound that can form strong complexes with various macromolecules. These compounds are most commonly found in organic, plant-based items.

Flora: Tillandsia usneoides

Spanish moss
Tillandsia usneoides

Spanish moss isn’t really a moss at all; it’s an epiphyte or air plant. Botanically, it is closely related to the pineapple and absorbs nutrients and water through the air and rainfall. It does occasionally flower but it is rarely seen. The silver-gray plant grows in long, hair-like clumps, hanging from trees in subtropical climates.

According to botanical guides, it has “threadlike stems up to 6 to 7.5 metres (about 20 to 25 feet) long. The leaves, also threadlike, are about 2.5 to 7.5 centimetres (1 to 3 inches) long.”

Spanish Moss growing on live oak tree, South Carolina

It is commonly found living on the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) and bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the lowlands, swamps, and marshes of the southeastern United States and can be found as far west as Texas and southern Arkansas. It does not harm or kill the trees it lives on.

William Bartram described it, and its uses, in his 1770s travels to the area:

When fresh, cattle and deer will eat it in the winter season. It seems particularly adapted to the purpose of stuffing mattrasses, chairs, saddles, collars, &c. and for these purposes, nothing yet known equals it. The Spaniards in South America, and the West-Indies, work it into cables that are said to be very strong and durable; but, in order to render it useful, it ought to be thrown into shallow ponds of water, and exposed to the sun, where it soon rots, and the outside furry substance is dissolved. It is then taken out of the water, and spread to dry; when, after a little beating and shaking, it is sufficiently clean, nothing remaining but the interior, hard, black, elastic filament, entangled together, and greatly resembling horse-hair.

In the modern era, Spanish moss has been used for building insulation, mulch, packing material, mattress stuffing, and fiber. It was even used in the padding of car seats by Henry Ford who had a home in Richmond Hill and a dealership in Savannah.

Popular Science, June 1937, page 32

The etymology for “Spanish moss” is not known although it is often supposed it is related to a term used by French settlers in the southeastern U.S. in the 1700s. They called it barbe Espagnol, or Spanish beard, referring to the long beards popular among Spanish explorers of the era. It has become an iconic image of the South, including in Southern gothic literature and in folklore.

Image from NYPL Digital Collections. Live Oak Avenue, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Ga. Stereograph. 1880. The description on the reverse reads, in part: “The majority if these trees are of the Live Oak species, with but few others. The latter have long since passed away, but the sturdy oaks, with their hoary beard of moss, still defy the gales of the Atlantic and wintry blasts; and their rustling leaves whisper a ceaseless lullaby to the quiet and peaceful sleepers at their feet.”