Altamaha Riverkeeper Sues Rayonier for Violations of Clean Water Act: Foul-smelling Effluent Has Been Discharged into River for Decades

GreenLaw, Stack & Associates, and Southern Environmental Law Center Represent Riverkeeper

Altamaha River showing colored discharge from Rayonier Jesup MillJesup, GA (March 26, 2014)— The Altamaha Riverkeeper (ARK) today filed suit against Rayonier Inc. and Rayonier Performance Fibers LLC (“Rayonier”), charging that the discharge into the Altamaha River from the company’s Jesup-based pulp mill is violating clean water standards.  The dark and foul-smelling effluent is discharged at rates of up to 60 million gallons per day into the river rendering fish inedible for many miles downstream and is clearly visible at the river surface and from the air.  Google Earth shows it changing the river color to an unnatural dark brown for miles running downstream from the mill towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The Clean Water Act empowers citizens to file suits when regulators are either unable to or refuse to step in to stop pollution problems.  Despite efforts to address the effluent issues with Rayonier and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), little progress has been made to clean up the river.  Said new ARK CEO & Riverkeeper Brian Lucy, “We are disappointed that we had to pursue litigation, but we are committed to protecting this vital river.  We remain hopeful that this problem can be resolved outside of court, but we are prepared, if necessary, to see this through.”  The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, seeks an injunction from the court to stop the illegal discharge and penalties for the Rayonier’s ongoing violations.

The Jesup mill produces approximately 670,000 metric tons of cellulose absorbent materials per year, which are used in a variety of products.  The majority of the current output is used for cigarette filters.  The waste output from the manufacturing process is substantial.  Most competitors to Rayonier have either installed, or are in the process of installing, Activated Sludge Treatment (AST) technology to treat their waste.  Independent experts agree that AST and other pulp mill systems can reduce pollutants and color to approximately half the concentration of the archaic Aerated Stabilization Basins (ASB) systems that the Jesup facility currently employs.

“Despite repeated efforts to find a suitable resolution with Rayonier, our only option is to push for stronger pollution controls through the court system,” said GreenLaw attorney, Hutton Brown.
 

“Georgians have asked Rayonier to clean up its pollution of the Altamaha River for years and it has failed to do so,” said Nate Hunt with Southern Environmental Law Center. “We intend to get a federal court to require Rayonier to immediately stop polluting and restore the quality of this great river for the communities who enjoy it.”

“Communities throughout Georgia are coming to the realization that you do not have to trade jobs for a clean environment.  It is our hope that someday soon Rayonier will also come to this realization, ” said  Don Stack of Stack & Associates, one of the team of attorneys retained by ARK to bring Rayonier into compliance.

ARK is represented in this lawsuit by GreenLaw, Stack & Associates and the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

People interested in following the issue can track it through Twitter via the hashtag #dobetterray or visit the Facebook page Do Better Rayonier.

 

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Contact:
Hutton Brown, Senior Attorney, GreenLaw,

Nate Hunt, Staff Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center,

Don Stack, Stack & Associates,

Brian Lucy, CEO & Riverkeeper, Altamaha Riverkeeper,

Altamaha Riverkeeper is a 501(c)(3) non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the habitat, water quality, and flow of the Altamaha river systems, Georgia's largest, from its headwaters in North Georgia to its terminus at the Atlantic Ocean near Darien.  ARK represents more than 1,200 members who live, work, and recreate in the Oconee, Ocmulgee, and Ohoopee River Basins and their feeder streams that make up the 14,000 square mile Altamaha River Watershed. More information and images of the pollution by Rayonier can be found at www.altamahariverkeeper.org.

GreenLaw is dedicated to preventing air and water pollution that endangers human health and degrades Georgia’s natural resources. Since 1992, GreenLaw has achieved these goals by providing free, high-quality legal and technical assistance to environmental organizations and community groups throughout Georgia. For more information, visit www.greenlaw.org and follow @greenlaw_GA on Twitter.

Stack & Associates, P.C., www.stackenvirolaw.com, founded in 1993 through the vision of Donald D.J. Stack, Esq. is a premier environmental law office serving citizens, municipalities and corporations throughout the entire Southeast region.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 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. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

Tags: Altamaha River · Altamaha Riverkeeper · Do Better Rayonier · Jesup Mill · Rayonier · Rayonier Performance Fibers