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Agency: Graphic Packaging Macon, Ga. facility problems caused 100 million-gallon spills into Ocmulgee River

MACON, Ga. (From news reports) -- More problems at Macon's Graphic Packaging facility sent more than 100 million gallons of polluted wastewater into the Ocmulgee River.

Last Tuesday, the Macon Water Authority called it a "major spill" that started Dec. 27 and is still continuing.

They say freezing weather in late December caused key equipment at Graphic Packaging to fail.

That sent wastewater loaded with heavy solids to the authority's Rocky Creek treatment plant, causing more problems there.

The authority's report says wastewater dumped into the Ocmulgee in early January included about 10 times more solids than allowed.

According to the EPA and others, high levels of suspended solids could cause fish kills or harm other life in the river.

The authority said Tuesday that neither they nor GPI can say when treatment will get back to normal.

The facility, which produces pulp and paper products from wood, is the water authority's largest customer, using around 8 million gallons a day.

This is not the first time problems at Graphic Packaging caused major spills.

Two years ago, the water authority said a serious of spills that lasted nearly three months let more than a half billion gallons of "substandard" wastewater into the river.

Again, the authority blamed excess solids released by Graphic Packaging into Rocky Creek plant.

Five years ago, Graphic Packaging said it planned to spend $136 million to upgrade its Macon Mill. They said they planned to improve both production and its environmental protection.

At the time, the company said they employed more than 460 people.

Local media reached out to Graphic Packaging's plant manager; they did not return the phone calls.

Macon Water spokesman Chris Wood referred technical questions about the impact of the spills to MWA officials. They did not return phone calls.

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