Citizens are not convinced EPA, GA-EPD, and GA Dept. of Health are doing enough to find what’s causing widespread sickness and death in Waycross, GA. They asked questions and provided data and anecdotes for more than an hour, demanding more testing and answers, at a meeting about the Seven Out Superfund and other air and water contamination, for example from CSX and AGL.
Georgia Department of Health did offer a new survey, with local help. She also offered to send a local health dept. rep. right out whenever they were alerted a certain site stunk after rains. EPA and GA-EPD admitted there was a problem and said they were trying to fix it, which is a step forward from their preliminary Waycross meeting last November. But not a big enough step or quick enough to satisfy Waycross people who are or who know many who are sick or dying.
They asked very insightful questions, about children exposed daily everywhere they go, synergistic effects and whether the agencies had actually found anybody sick from these chemicals, about unsellable property, surface water contamination that might affect the Satilla River, well testing, when, where, rainfall or not, and vs. city water, landfills used to dispose of contaminated soil, and many more. Joan M. Tibor had even rented an instrument and done her own testing, but her results were pooh-poohed by EPA.
Sure, it’s a hard problem, as I mentioned to GA-EPD afterwards, but as I mentioned to GA-EPD afterwards, they’ve got a very willing public ready to help.
At the front table, left to right: Jame M. Perry of Georgia Department of Health, Jim Brown of GA EPD, (unknown), Matthew J. Huyser of EPA. They apparently gave slide presentations for the first hour. I arrived just after Q&A had started.
Here are links to the individual videos, followed by a video playlist. a video playlist:
Children play there every –Joan M. Tibor to Jane M. Perry GA Health Dept.
Video. Jame M. Perry, Georgia Department of Health, said:
…exposure calculations … a child playing on a hot spot a certain amount of hours every day for a certain number of years… and just the levels are so low that….
Joan M. Tibor, an organizer of citizens’ group SilentDisaster.org, rebutted:
You’re saying a child plays there twice. Well there’s children in that neighborhood that play there every single day. Not only do they play there every single day, then they go home to their yards and they play in their own yards, that are like mine: they’re contaminated, also. And then they’re breathing some of that air, and then they’re drinking some of that water, that we say benzene, pyrene won’t get down in our water system. Well if it’s not, can’t get in our water system, why is CSX and AGL report it in the water. There’s 24 hour exposure.
The moderator appealed for calm.
Another citizen displayed a letter from Atlanta Gas in 2001 saying AGL had found contamination in an area near a now-closed AGL location. The GA-EPD rep asserted that AGL had “removed the contamination down to a concentration below the most strict safety level there is”.
Several other citizens spoke in this video, including one woman who said her family had not had any health problems until they moved to Waycross, and:
There are children all over sick. People told me when I first moved here, “don’t drink the water.” I thought they were crazy. But then we moved here and my whole family’s been sick. There’s something here and if you don’t want to find it you’re not going to find it.
But if you want to find it y’all do your testing of the air, soil, and water of the schools and the neighborhoods and protecting the community because that’s what y’all are supposed to do.
Community help with survey? –Jane M. Perry, GA Dept. Health
Video. Ms. Perry said she’d like to conduct another study, but “that would require going in and doing another similar survey.” She asked if the citizens thought that would be a good idea, and:
If we could get help from the community to distribute hundreds of surveys where we could get all the data we need, we could do that over a relatively short period of time.
Apparently I didn’t get it on video, but citizens really liked that idea and volunteered to help distribute the survey.
- Surface water contamination? –Ashby Nix, Satilla Riverkeeper
- Instrument calibration procedures?
Cocktail of chemicals, sleeping, living, 24/7
Video. She wanted to know what health effects were caused by combinations of chemicals. EPA’s Matthew J. Huyser said they tested for specific chemicals, and even with that they needed something to lead them back to a source to tie any health effects to any chemical. He offered as part of EPA’s ongoing health consultation they would try to gather more chemicals, but it was almost impossible to go backwards from a health effect to a chemical cause.
She had to ask her question several different ways, such as aspirin having ill effects in combination with certain other medications, before GA Health’s Jane M. Perry finally got what she wanted to know, and came up with the buzzword: synergistic or additive effects. She said nonetheless “we can’t; we don’t” and they dealt with separate exposures and separate effects.
GA EPD’s Jim Brown expounded that dosage or concentration also mattered, and pointed out that a low dosage of one chemical could affect effects of another.
Property owner next to Seven Out site
Video. He said he had had no illness, nor had anybody who worked for him there. But in the next video….
Private cleanup a big win –Matthew J. Huyser, EPA
Video. The nearest property owner said he couldn’t sell his property.
- Not everybody affected; we take that into account –Jane Perry, GA Dept. Health
- Some don’t report out of fear –Joan M. Tibor SilentDisaster.org
- Did you test the CSX property at the canal?
- Well testing: when, where, rain or not? –Neill Herring
- Concerned about Satilla River & CSX surface water discharge permit
- To what landfill did uncovered AGL trucks take canal dirt in 2001?
- Tank farm tested twice a year –Jim Brown GA-EPD
- Have you found anybody sick from these chemicals? “So many factors” –EPA
- Wells vs. city water, which is “rigorously tested” –EPA
- Volatile compound testing by citizens –Joan M. Tibor
Tested water from three wells at several temperatures; 1 different –Joan Tibor
Video. EPA’s Matthew Huyser said he thought the instrument she was using was barely good for qualitative tests, and not at all for quantitative tests. Which seems like a strange reaction to me, considering she just said she demonstrated one well’s water didn’t produce VOCs at any temperature. Plus if he doesn’t like the instrument she’s using, how about offering to supply a better one, or to have someone do such tests?
- Time up on the room; send questions –EPA
Here’s the video playlist:
Children, cancer clusters, citizen water tests
Seven Out Superfund Assessment,
Public Meeting, Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD),
Video by John S. Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Waycross, Ware County, Georgia, 17 July 2014.