Southern Environmental Law Center Joins GreenLaw and Stack & Associates to Clean Up Altamaha River

The Southern Environmental Law Center has joined GreenLaw and the Atlanta-based law firm Stack & Associates to represent the Altamaha Riverkeeper in its efforts to stop pollution of the Altamaha River, caused by ongoing effluent discharges from the Rayonier Performance Fibers plant in Jesup, Georgia.

GreenLaw and Stack submitted a letter to Rayonier on behalf of Altamaha Riverkeeper on November 26, 2013, notifying the pulp company of the Riverkeeper’s intent to sue for violations of the Federal Clean Water Act and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act.

“These violations and the effects they have on the health of the river are not temporary results from a one-time accident, but rather a chronic and systematic problem that has gone on for decades,” said Deborah Sheppard, executive director of Altamaha Riverkeeper. “With the support of GreenLaw, Stack and the Southern Environmental Law Center, we urge Rayonier to address and rectify their pollution issues once and for all.”

Altamaha Riverkeeper claims that the pulp company is violating its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit by discharging pollution into the river that exceeds state standards for color and odor. The group is currently in discussions with Rayonier and is evaluating a potential federal lawsuit under the Clean Water Act.

“We look forward to helping the Riverkeeper improve and protect the water quality of one of Georgia’s great rivers,” said Nate Hunt, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Rayonier has been allowed to operate under an outdated pollutant discharge permit without adequate limits on the color or odor of its discharges. For years, the Altamaha River and Georgians who use and enjoy it have been paying the price.”

“Although we hope to be able to work out this problem with Rayonier, we are prepared to go to court if necessary to enforce the law,” said Hutton Brown, GreenLaw’s Water Attorney.

“Rayonier can clean up its pollution on the Altamaha with existing technology; there is no reason for them to continue polluting the river for everyone downstream,” said Don Stack, founder of Stack & Associates. “The addition of SELC to the Riverkeeper’s efforts reflects the recognition by environmental lawyers throughout the state that the ongoing degradation of Georgia’s largest and most diverse river must stop.” 

GreenLaw and SELC have worked together to represent the Altamaha Riverkeeper and other groups in challenging the state-issued permits for the proposed 850 mega-watt Plant Washington coal power plant in Sandersville, GA in 2010.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional non-profit organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia with offices in six states across the Southeast. Among its environmental work, SELC's team of legal and policy experts represent more than 200 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

For those interested in following the issue through the Altamaha Riverkeeper’s social media channels, follow the hashtag #dobetterray on Twitter or visit the Facebook page Do Better Rayonier.