Press Release: Milliken vows to halt use of PFAS chemicals by year’s end

February 18, 2022
Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director


One of their industrial textile facilities is on the banks of the Ogeechee River


Milliken has promised to stop using PFAS, otherwise known as ‘forever chemicals’ in their facilities by December 2022. They are eradicating these chemicals from two product lines from facilities worldwide. This includes the Longleaf facility located in Screven County on the banks of the Ogeechee River. 

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) discovered PFAS in the river, then produced and publicly shared sample evidence to indicate PFAS were being discharged by Milliken in fall of 2020. This information was shared with the public, and with Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD), along with a request to require Milliken to conduct a full-scale PFAS study before issuing a new permit. 

“This is a major step in removing pollutants and contaminants from all of our waterways,” said Damon Mullis, riverkeeper and executive director. “We are pleased our work on this issue gained enough public attention to encourage a change in company practices.” Mullis adds that ORK will continue to monitor for compliance. 

PFAS are a class of chemicals that do not break down in nature and bio-accumulate in living organisms, including humans. Studies show links to thyroid and liver problems, obesity, high cholesterol, low birth weight, and certain cancers. There are currently no national standards for ‘acceptable’ levels of PFAS contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still studying the issue but the agency recently added PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list.

Removal of this harmful chemical from Milliken’s process is positive for the health of the river, but ORK will continue to push for stringent standards on any permit renewal for Milliken. Outflow from the facility was the contributing factor to a massive fish kill in 2011, one of the largest in the state’s history. The facility has at least one Clean Water Act (CWA) violation on record for the past 11 of 13 quarters, including the most recent 4 quarters. 

More on the history of Milliken’s facility along the Ogeechee River


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

PRESS RELEASE: ORK 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 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

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

PRESS RELEASE: GA EPD poised to issue weakened Milliken permit

Ogeechee Riverkeeper
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director


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

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


What are PFAs?

via The National Wildlife Federation

PFAs, or polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl

What is that?

PFAs are a category of manmade carcinogenic chemicals. Invented and brought into widespread use during World War II, they are very effective in extinguishing fires, especially ones accelerated by jet fuel or petroleum products. The PFAs are mixed with water to create a spray foam that suffocates the fire quickly and doesn’t allow the fire to reignite. They are also used to coat fabrics for firefighters.

PFAs are considered ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down in the environment and they accumulate in wildlife, plants and humans.

I don’t work in an airport and I’m not a firefighter or in the military, so I’m fine. 

Not really. PFAs are used in many household items like nonstick cookware, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, windshield fluid and carpets.

They are also in the water — groundwater and drinking water. And over time, they accumulate in fish and livestock, meaning they are in the food chain. All of these sources cause them to accumulate in the human body.

Additionally, steps should be taken to make firefighting and military equipment safe for those using it.

Firefighter puts out car fire with PFAs-based foam

What does that mean?

Scientists are still investigating, testing and studying results, but here are some results:

  • It is estimated that 98% of Americans have some level of PFAs in their blood.
  • If a person were able to avoid exposure to any and all PFAs, it would take 3.5 years for half of the PFAs to be processed out of their system.
  • Studies show links to thyroid and liver problems, obesity, high cholesterol, low birth weight, and certain cancers.
  • Approximately 16 million Americans are drinking water that has been contaminated with PFAs. This includes private wells and public water systems.

CDC guidance on PFAsFDA guidance on PFAs

How do we trace PFAs?

Attention needs to be paid to threatened areas, particularly those near military installations or manufacturing plants. For example, the U.S. Air Force is testing water on 200 bases around the world, but as of last year had only completed a third of them.

All three U.S. Air Force bases in Georgia showed significant levels of PFAs contamination in the groundwater. Unfortunately, the military did not test water offsite, even if it was nearby. Local residents that use private wells are especially vulnerable to contamination.

The EPA drinking water advisory level is 70 parts per trillion PFAs. Groundwater samples from Moody Air Force Base tested 5,000 times that; Dobbins Air Reserve tested at 1,000 times; and Robins Air Force Base tested at more than 5,000 times the screening level.

Fire department sprays water on fire suppression foam. Photo by Greg L. Davis U.S. Air Force via

So how do we get rid of it?

Some municipalities have already started to take steps.

  • In Rome, Georgia, the city commission adopted a resolution stating that “certain manufacturers and distributors” were a public nuisance, paving the way for possible litigation if contamination occurs.
  • With the support of the firefighters, the state of Washington passed a bill requiring safer options for its firefighters.
  • The chemical company 3M is facing multiple federal lawsuits in Charleston, South Carolina, for production of the PFAs compounds. 3M is also in the courtroom over allegations it polluted waterways near its factories in Minnesota.
  • The State of Michigan tests fish and issues an annual advisory in the form of a Eat Safe Fish Guide.

Local governments and citizens must require action regarding PFAs.

  • Demand comprehensive PFAs drinking water and groundwater testing near high-likelihood sources. Use that data to determine the cause of the contamination and mitigate it.
  • Encourage drinking water testing of private wells in high-risk areas.
  • Require polluters to pay for remediation and damages, and not expect citizens to foot the bill, like in Summerville, Ga. or in Marinette, Wisc.
  • Test fish that may have been contaminated and issue advisory, if needed.
  • Encourage lawmakers to ban PFAs and/or source healthier alternatives.
  • Demand the EPA sets standards for ‘acceptable’ and enforces those standards.
  • Require ongoing testing and monitoring of pollutant sources.

In the News

 EPA adds PFAs treatment options (July 2020)

UK’s The Guardian writes about PFAs in US drinking water (Sept 2020)

The poison found in everyone, even unborn babies – and who is responsible for it –  The Guardian, UK (Dec 2020)