County vows to get involved in chemical controversy

Mon, 07/17/2006 - 10:55am
By: John Thompson

County vows to get involved in chemical controversy

They came to tell their story.

Residents from Fayette and Fulton County packed the Fayette County Commission chambers Thursday to tell of a health concern that has gripped an area with fear and left many residents ill after the pesticide Propyl mercaptan was released into the environment at a waste treatment plant on Ga. Highway 92 in South Fulton County.

The smell has been lingering in the air for almost four weeks, and what many residents thought was the smell of wild onions, has proved far more menacing.

“Most of us don’t like a toxic waste plant in our backyard,’ said Connie Biemiller, who lives on Lee’s Lake Road.

Earl Hindman, who lives in the Fife Community, said the community has been having problems with the operator of the waste treatment facility, Phillip Services Corporation, since 1992.

“In 1992, we had the smell of an open sewer in our community. It permeated everything. Some people just left their homes and moved away,” he said. “We started smelling this in mid-June. We think they had a spill.”

The onion-like smell has sent residents to their doctors and hospitals, and even caused some pets to die.

Retired biologist Dennis Chase walked the area near the plant Wednesday and found something quite disturbing.

“There were no animal tracks or birds in the area. A lot of time, animals are smarter than we are,” Chase said.

Chase said the county should ask the Atlanta Regional Commission to help mediate the dispute, but one commissioner had her doubts about that approach.

“Would that give relief in a prompt way?” questioned Linda Wells.

Commission Chairman Greg Dunn said the best approach would be dealing with the governing body, the Fulton County Commission. Dunn said he would use every avenue available to help solve the problem.

“We have been accused of being obnoxious. This might be time to get obnoxious,” he said.

Speaker after speaker walked to the podium and told their stories about children getting sick, dogs dying and waking up in the middle of the night being unable to breathe.

The commissioners vowed to get in touch with their Fulton counterparts and said they would be at the public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bethany United Methodist Church on Lee’s Lake Road.

One of the more poignant comments came from Fairburn resident Nell Smith.

“I’m a cancer survivor, and if my cancer comes back, I’ll be on them like white on rice.

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