Rally hears officials call for PSC to close

Tue, 10/24/2006 - 4:33pm
By: Ben Nelms

Rally hears officials call for PSC to close

The five-month trek from onions to outrage continued in full force Oct. 21 with a large number of residents and some elected officials representing Fayette and Fulton counties maintaining the call for the Philip Services Corp. (PSC) waste treatment plant near Fairburn to close its doors.

Sponsored by South Fulton/Fayette Community Task Force, the citizens’ rally at Shamrock Park in Tyrone was designed to continue the two-county effort to keep in the forefront of public discussion the more than 750 illnesses said to be linked to the onion-like smell of chemical odorant propyl mercaptan and organophosphate pesticide MOCAP.

Fayette County Commission Chairman Greg Dunn minced no terms in his call for the PSC plant to be closed. Noting that the now-familiar onion smell was detected in Fayetteville as recently as three weeks ago, Dunn said the illnesses experienced by families inhibits their freedom to live their lives in their own homes and transcends the issues that so often result in the forms of polarization that can occur within any community.

“There have been times Fayette and Fulton commissioners didn’t agree,” Dunn said with emphasis. “But this is not about politics, it’s not about Democrats and Republicans, it’s not about black and white, it’s not about men and women. It’s about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The people affected in these two counties don’t have the life, the freedom, to come and go without being afraid for their families. So we’re not going to let this continue to happen here. We don’t want study after study after study. We want it closed. If government can’t guarantee the safety of the people in these two counties, then close the damn thing.”

Dunn noted PSC’s failure to make state-required annual reports since beginning operations on Ga. Highway 92 in 1997 and Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) lack of records on the plant for more than 15 years. What is known, Dunn said, is that people have been complaining about the smells from the plant for the past 15 to 20 years.

Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards continued the call. Edwards has called for the closure of the plant since the first public meeting July 19 where nearly 400 people packed Bethany United Methodist Church in north Fayette, demanding answers that, now months later, are far from complete.

“I’m committed to shutting down that plant,” Edwards said. “If you know the Fulton County Commission you know that we don’t always agree, but we do agree that it’s time to stop it and stop it now. And the Fulton County Commission is behind you 100 percent.”

Task force members are currently calling for Fulton County Commission to vote not to renew PSC’s pre-treatment permit that expires Dec. 22. PSC holds a solid waste permit from EPD and the pre-treatment permit from Fulton. It is through the pre-treatment permit that the plant discharges treated water into the Fulton County sewerage system.

Also making his position known was Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone), who represents residents in Fayette and Fulton counties.

“It’s a beautiful day today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the communities of Fife and Spence Road to be able to sit outside their homes without being concerned about their breathing?” Fludd asked, referencing two of the areas in the 40-square-mile “hot zone” where the majority of human illnesses and animal deaths have been reported since June. “This is a serious problem in the heart of my district. This is a wake-up call for those of us who are elected officials with oversight responsibility.”

The occasion was not lost on challengers to the political process. One of those in attendance, Democratic U.S. Eighth Congressional District candidate Mike McGraw, was described by task force Chairman Connie Biemiller as someone who became aware of the group months earlier during a protest along Ga. Highway 74.

“Mike found us at the protest. A few hours later he was back and he’s been with us ever since,” she said.

Like Dunn moments earlier, McGraw said the issues surrounding the illnesses of so many people go beyond the framework of party politics. The issues go the core of the health and well-being of more than 750 residents of Fayette and Fulton that cannot afford to be left unaddressed.

“This is not about Democrat or Republican. This is about citizens and about right and wrong. The people in this group are victims,” McGraw said. “The plant needs to be closed, we need to make sure any and all medical needs are addressed now and in the future and we need for this never to happen again.”

During the day-long rally task force members provided information on the medical, scientific, legal and environmental aspects of the exposure to airborne chemicals they said had entered their lives around the Memorial Day weekend.

Also attending the rally were Tyrone Council member Gloria Furr, Fairburn Council members Mario Avery and Ron Adlerman, Fayette County commissioners Robert Horgan and Peter Pfeifer, state Sen. Ronnie Chance, Fayette Commission Post 4 candidate Rod Mack and state 72nd District candidate Kevin Madden.

For additional on the activities of South Fulton/Fayette Community Task Force visit www.communitytaskforce.org.

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