Symptoms from onion odor are returning

Mon, 02/05/2007 - 9:44am
By: Ben Nelms

It might be coincidence and is hopefully not related, but several members of the south Fulton and north Fayette communities began manifesting some of the same symptoms late last week that they experienced during the summer and fall months after breathing what they said were emissions from the Philip Services Corp. (PSC) waste treatment plant on Ga. Highway 92 near Fairburn. More than 750 Fulton and Fayette residents reported experiencing the same few symptoms in mid-2006 after breathing what many claimed were emissions of the chemical odorant Propyl mercaptan and organophospahte pesticide MOCAP that escaped the plant property.

Most area residents currently exhibiting symptoms associated with exposure to the chemicals said there was no obvious smell associated with their symptoms. Two residents said they smelled the familiar onion-like odor that permeated a 40 square-mile area of south Fulton and north central Fayette from Memorial Day through early October.

South Fulton/Fayette Community Task Force Chairman Connie Biemiller said a total of seven residents reported similar symptoms to those experienced during the summer and fall. Some of those symptoms included breathing difficulties and dizziness. The overriding concern is that residents may be subject to long-term health effects, Biemiller said.

Some area residents have not recovered from what they said were the direct affects of exposure to chemicals from PSC. More recently, individuals previously employed by PSC stated that they, too, had been sickened by the onion-like odor so pervasive at the plant. Employees described having some of the same symptoms as community members.

The task force was unrelenting in pressing their point with local, state and federal officials beginning in July. A significant step was taken, task force members said, when PSC entered into an agreement with Fulton County in late 2006, stating that the application to extend its Pre-treatment permit to discharge wastewater into the county sewer system would be withdrawn. PSC said it would not reapply for another permit for at least six years. A significant, but undisclosed, percentage of the plant’s business prior to the expiration of the permit in December 2006 was involved in processing chemicals through its wastewater treatment system and discharging the resulting wastewater into the Fulton County sewer system.

Georgia Environmental Protection Division Assistant Director Jim Ussery was unable to be contacted for comment on the new spike in symptoms and whether PSC has requested or received any modifications relating to its Solid Waste Handling permit.

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