Judge Chris Edwards gave lawyers for the EPD seven days after that to respond to the environmentalists' legal briefs.
Edwards is presiding in Spalding County Superior Court where the Ogeechee Riverkeeper's suit against EPD Director Jud Turner is pending because it's where Turner lives. Lawyers for the Riverkeeper, an advocacy group with more than 1,000 members, is asking Edwards to order Turner to shut down King America Finishing's fire-retardant operation at its Screven County plant.
The company has long had an EPD permit to discharge waste from its fabric-finishing operation, but it never sought or received a permit to discharge from the fire-retardant line it began running there in 2005.
Discovery of 78,000 dead fish in the river in 2011 led state investigators to the un-permitted discharge. The company agreed to a $1 million settlement and to comply with EPD's demands to change its discharge. It also applied for a new permit.
The Riverkeeper has begun legal challenges of the settlement and the new permitting process, with multiple cases pending in various state and federal courts across Georgia. In the mean time, the company has continued to discharge some pollutants from its fire-retardant line.
Edwards told the Riverkeeper's lawyer, Hutton Brown of Greenlaw, that he wants to see where in state law it says the EPD director must shut down a company if it discharges pollutants without a permit.
"I have to see what exactly that says," Edwards said.