Lawsuit alleges pollution of Flint River below Atlanta

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Lawsuit alleges pollution of Flint River below Atlanta

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Along the Flint River. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Property owners and environmental groups are suing a textile mill along the Flint River south of Atlanta over alleged Clean Water Act violations.

TenCate Protective Fabric makes fire resistant clothing for firefighters and the military at its Molena factory in Pike County. Nearby landowners, joined by the Flint Riverkeeper and Atlanta-based GreenLaw, claim the mill indirectly discharges arsenic, chromium, nitrates and other pollutants into tributaries of the Flint.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks an injunction to prohibit TenCate from sending wastewater into the tributaries, as well as financial penalties for previous violations.

“Polluted industrial wastewater discharged directly to tributaries of the Flint without a Clean Water Act permit is illegal,” Gordon Rogers, the Flint Riverkeeper, said in a statement. “We seek to protect the health of the community, property values and the river.”

A TenCate spokesman didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Previously, the Dutch-based company said its water-treatment system was “inspected and permitted by the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection.” EPD also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The wastewater discharged by TenCate, known as Southern Mills in Georgia, is sprayed on nearby fields where plants and soil are supposed to remove sufficient amounts of chemicals before the water leaches into the groundwater or flows into streams. Plaintiffs, though, contend the “overburdened and oversaturated” spray fields don’t adequately filter the wastewater.

The lawsuit contends widespread pollution of Cox Branch and Hardy Branch, tributaries of the Flint River in Upson County. Plaintiffs also say noxious odors emanate from the spray fields.

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