SAVANNAH - Landowners on the Ogeechee River have filed a lawsuit blaming a southeast Georgia manufacturer for causing the deaths of an estimated 33,000 fish since late May.
The suit filed Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court says that King America Finishing, which produces textiles in Screven County, either purposefully or negligently released "an unknown quantity of caustic chemicals and other contaminants" into the river that sickened and killed multiple species of fish.
State and federal agencies have been investigating the massive fish kill along 70 miles of the river between Screven County northeast of Statesboro to western Chatham County near Savannah since May 20.
Officials say the dead fish were found near the King America Finishing plant and further downstream. But no agency has accused the company of wrongdoing.
Mike Beasley, the company's president, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday from The Associated Press.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources estimated the toll at about 33,000 dead fish from multiple species including redbreast sunfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie and white catfish.
Lab tests found the fish died from a disease called columnaris, caused by bacteria that normally don't infect fish unless they're already stressed by changes in the environment.
Environmental Protection Agency scientists reports they found ammonia, formaldehyde and hydrogen peroxide in water samples from the river. But they concluded there wasn't enough of any one of the chemicals to sicken so many fish. However, the EPA scientists said it's possible that all three chemicals mixed together along with unseasonably high water temperatures and river flows reduced by drought might have left fish vulnerable to disease.