Congressman Scott: ‘Close the plant,’

Tue, 09/19/2006 - 4:24pm
By: Ben Nelms

U.S. Rep. David Scott Monday joined a growing list of local jurisdictions, elected officials and community organizations calling for answers to the illnesses experienced by more than 750 north Fayette and south Fulton residents.

However, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who represents Fayette County residents in the affected area, has declined to get involved in the controversy, saying that Fulton County authorities had the situation “in hand.”

Scott — who represents portions of south Fulton in Congress — told state and federal officials and members of the South Fulton/Fayette Community Task Force the Philip Services Corp. (PSC) waste treatment plant near Fairburn should be closed until the answers to those illnesses are found.

Residents say they are or have been sickened by the onion-like odor of chemical emissions that escaped the plant.

“What’s wrong with closing (the plant) until we have an explanation?” Scott asked, posing the question after referencing the number of affected families and taxpayers in the community. “The problem is that people around the plant got sick and it clearly represented a health hazard. The odor is still there. The illnesses are a hazard to the residential quality of life. We need to put a halt on the plant until the answers are found.”

Scott told representatives of the community task force, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), Fulton County Commission, federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and Georgia Division of Public Health that he would be willing to search for federal funds to help with the studies needed to answer those questions.

Scott also expressed his regret that EPD opted to allow PSC to enter into a consent order agreement and reopen the plant in August after its permit was suspended.

“You should not have entered into a consent order with them,” Scott told EPD Assistant Director Jim Ussery. “You all should have never allowed them to get off the hook. The public hasn’t had their process. If you can’t close the plant until you find the answers you’ll have to go to the legislature to look at new legislation to tighten things up.”

An Aug. 11 consent order came after PSC’s solid waste handling permit was temporarily suspended in late July following an EPD site inspection.

PSC initially appealed the suspension by EPD Director Carol Couch but entered into the consent order rather than having an administrative law judge hear the appeal. Numerous site inspections were initiated beginning in late June after increasing community reports of the noxious onion odor and complaints of resulting illness.

The Sept. 18 meeting concluded with Scott calling for task force members to meet with his staff to draft a letter that would be sent immediately to EPA calling for the agency to provide input on closing the plant until answers can be found.

The PSC plant is located at 8025 Spence Road, along Ga. Highway 92, in south Fulton near the Fayette County line. Also known as PSC Recovery Systems, Inc., the plant was purchased in 1997. The parent company, PSC Industrial Services, is headquartered in Houston, Texas. PSC has facilities nationwide, providing industrial cleaning, environmental, transportation and container services.

The Fairburn plant holds a solid waste handling permit issued by EPD and a wastewater pre-treatment permit issued by Fulton County.

More than 750 residents of north and central Fayette and south Fulton have said they were sickened by the onion-like chemical odor of propyl mercaptan or the organophosphate pesticide MOCAP, from which propyl mercaptan is a breakdown product. Both of those chemicals had been present at the plant. The now-familiar smell was initially reported over a wide range from Clayton County to Coweta and from Fulton to Fayette.

Fayette and Fulton County exposure forms completed by residents have indicated illnesses over portions of south Fulton and a much larger area of north and central Fayette. The symptoms reported are consistent with exposure to propyl mercaptan and MOCAP, according to information from material safety data sheets for the two chemicals.

The “hot zone” of symptoms, initially identified by The Citizen and later verified by Fayette EMS for the Fayette County portion, covers an area in Fulton and Fayette of approximately 40 square miles. Though variable due to factors such as elevation and prevailing winds, the hot zone generally covers the area around I-85 to the north, the town of Tyrone and the Ga. Highway 74 corridor to the west, Ga. Highway 279 to the east and the areas north of Fayetteville and Peachtree City to the south.

To date, Fayette County Commission, Fulton County Commission, the town of Tyrone, South Fulton Concerned Citizens and North Fayette Community Association have called for answers to the illnesses, with most calling for the permanent closure of the plant.

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Submitted by jmatute on Thu, 09/21/2006 - 1:00pm.

It is rather strange that an elected public official such as congressman Lynn Westmoreland refuses to intervene and assist the citizens of Fayette and Fulton counties who have been adversely affected by the release of toxic chemicals in his district. If there ever was a burden of oversight that needs to be examined, it is the interstate transportation (from Alabama to Georgia) of toxic substances. There is a federal issue here. What is is the motivation behind his refusal to assist the citizens in his district?

Voice of Fayette Future's picture
Submitted by Voice of Fayett... on Thu, 09/21/2006 - 3:06pm.

To answer your question, Dan Lakly has opposition; Lynn Wastemoron has opposition; Ronnie Chance does not.

Don’t expect any of them to oppose the Love Canal-Woburn up in South Fulton. They are owned lock stock and barrel by the polluters. The former director of the EPD, Harold Reheis, left the State with a whopping pension and now he represents polluters. Laughing all the way the bank.

But you could really look at this environmental disaster, complete with dead animals and respiratory problems, as “The Tale of Two Fayette Congressmen”. In Fayette County, we are represented by two U.S. Congressman. One stood up and fought the plant. One did nothing. One demanded that the state close the plant and investigate the extent of the damage to the air and water. One did nothing. One has nothing to do with real estate development and serves in Congress. The other does nothing in Congress and is actively involved in real estate development. One Congressman in David Scott; the other is Lynn “Do-nothing-er” Westmoreland, advocate of the Three Commandments.

Nancy Faulkner's picture
Submitted by Nancy Faulkner on Wed, 09/20/2006 - 6:03pm.

How many people with unexplained illnesses haven't put two and two together to realize that they could have been poisoned?

I think more people would be upset about this if they understood that the odor isn't making people sick. People are not saying: "Oh, I can't stand that smell, it makes me sick!"

People have serious life threatening medical problems because they have been exposed to toxic substances. One particular toxin smells like onions. How many other toxins have been released into our environment from the PSC plant in the past 16 years that didn't smell like onions?

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