Since a kaolin spill was reported Dec. 31, the water in Reedy Creek from the Highway 17 bridge has run a milky white.
“It’s beginning to settle out a little on top, but it’s still leaving a trail of white,” Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said Monday.
The spill occurred when a 12-inch pipeline failed near the Highway 17 Bridge and allowed 679 tons – or 187,000 gallons – of slurry to run downhill into the creek. From there, the slurry traveled downriver from the Warren County location, through Jefferson County and into Burke County.
As of Monday, the slurry had traveled about 30 miles downstream, from Warren County to Waynesboro.
KaMin Vice President Doug Carter said the kaolin mining company is monitoring the spill closely.
The slurry is composed primarily of kaolin and water, according to a news release. It also stated that kaolin is used in many applications that come in contact with food and is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. There are also low levels of sodium bicarbonate along with a polyacrylate dispersant in the water, both of which are FDA approved.
“We have seen some reports that there was a chemical spill,” Carter said. “We want to make sure folks know this is kaolin, it is a natural mineral, and it is FDA-approved for use in food-contact applications. It is an inert material.”
“In layperson’s terms, kaolin is just clay,” said Kevin Chambers, who works for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
Repairs are under way on the pipeline, which is about 7.5 miles long.
Carter said the pipeline will remain out of service while KaMin investigates the cause of the failure.
Chambers said the EPD does not yet know what the effects of the spill will be. He said the EPD is monitoring the creek at several locations.