Press Release | October 3, 2016

Court Rules in Favor of Conservation Groups’ Challenge to Pulp Mill Pollution Discharge Permit

Atlanta, GA—A state administrative court has ruled in favor of conservation groups challenging a pulp mill’s visible, foul-smelling pollution of the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia.

Representing Altamaha Riverkeeper, GreenLaw, Stack & Associates and the Southern Environmental Law Center have won their petition challenging the pollution discharge permit recently granted to Rayonier Advanced Materials (formerly known as Rayonier Performance Fibers, LLC) , claiming that the permit’s limits on odor and color do not go far enough to uphold state water quality standards.

“We are thrilled with the Court’s ruling that the permit is considered unlawful–fishermen, kayakers and recreationists of all sorts are aware of the awful stench and stain that is pumped into the river daily by Rayonier Advanced Materials, and the Judge concluded that it interferes with citizens’ legitimate uses of the river,” said Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper. “Further, the Court recognized that our Environmental Protection Division appeared to give the 100+ public written comments against this pollution little more than a cursory glance in considering the new permit. Those communities who love this river and want to enjoy it are the real winners today.”

“This is a great decision because, for a very long time Rayonier Advanced Materials’ plant has fouled the water in Jesup, often for many miles downstream,” said Hutton Brown, Senior Attorney for GreenLaw. “The Jesup-based mill discharges 50 to 60 million gallons of effluent into the river daily, and we had a lot of testimony from local citizens who told of how their desire to use the river has been negatively impacted.”

“Rayonier Advanced Materials’ discharge into the river, which is clearly visible both at the river’s surface and from above, often causes a dark, malodorous plume to extend down the river and fishermen have complained that it renders fish inedible for many miles downstream,” said co-counsel Don Stack of Stack & Associates.

“We are very pleased with the decision, which ensures greater protections for the Altamaha River and the communities who want to safely fish, swim, and paddle,” said Megan Hinkle, Staff Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Improving the pollution discharge permit is a very important and positive step forward, and we will continue to work toward enforcing tougher restrictions on color and odor for Georgia’s waterways.”

Read the decision here.


About the Southern Environmental Law Center:

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 more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. 

About GreenLaw:

As a 501(c)(3) law firm, GreenLaw advocates to preserve Georgia’s unique natural places and enforces compliance with environmental law through the court system. GreenLaw was founded in 1992 by attorneys, law professors, and judges committed to providing community groups in Georgia with the legal and technical tools needed to protect their environment and public health. For more information, please visit

About Altamaha Riverkeeper:

Altamaha Riverkeeper founded in 1999, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and defense of the Altamaha Watershed – Georgia’s largest river system– including the Ocmulgee, Oconee, Ohoopee and Altamaha Rivers and Georgia’s southern Golden Isles. Seeking to protect and preserve healthy swimmable, fishable, drinkable waters for our communities and wildlife.

About Stack & Associates:

Stack & Associates, P.C., 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.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Megan Huynh

Senior Attorney