Columbus attorney honored

Columbus attorney Joel O. Wooten, Jr. will receive a prestigious environmental law award for his role in a lawsuit against Allied Chemical — now Honeywell International — for pollution to the marshes of Glynn County.

Wooten, along with Augusta attorneys John C. Bell, Jr. and Pamela S. James, will be honored in September with the Ogden Doremus Award for Excellence in Environmental Law.

Doremus recently died.

"These attorneys epitomize all that Ogden stood and fought for, and since he worked especially hard to preserve the coastal marshes it seems so fitting that Wooten, Bell, and James have been selected by our Board to be our honorees this year. Ogden would have loved that," said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of the Georgia Center, which gives the award.

For nearly 40 years the Allied Chemical's chlor alkali plant in Brunswick, Georgia, produced caustic soda and bleach. From 1956 until it closed in 1994, the plant discharged hundreds of thousands of pounds of mercury and PCBs into the famed marshes of Glynn County and the surrounding waters of the Turtle River estuary. The plant operators knew of these discharges, which contaminated fish, crabs, and oysters in the Turtle River estuary resulting in Georgia's only ban against eating these fish and shellfish.

As a result of the lawsuit, Allied (Honeywell) will be forced to clean up the marsh and the surrounding area that it contaminated over the years with mercury and PCBs. Georgia's coast was precious to Judge Doremus and he worked hard to protect it; the Doremus Award winners have continued in that tradition. The Awards will be presented on Sept. 27 at the Environmental Heroes Celebration.