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Updated 5-9-08

GEC Partnership Identifies Another Hazard

Arco Pond Found to Be Human Health Threat


   The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) was aware that subsistence fishers were frequenting the Arco Quarry.  Since the Quarry is located very close to the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site, the GEC requested that the EPA have the fish sampled to assure contaminated fish were not being consumed.  EPA refusal to test the fish led to the formation of a partnership with local, state, and national health agencies to get the task done.

    In partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health, with technical and funding assistance from Glynn County Health Department and the Glynn Environmental Coalition, fish tissue samples were collected from the Arco Quarry and analyzed for mercury, lead and PCBs. Over the last century, areas of the Brunswick peninsula and Turtle River Basin have been impacted by industrial operations that released toxic chemicals into the environment. The Arco neighborhood is one such area located adjacent to a former chlor-alkali facility, LCP Chemicals, currently listed on the National Priority List (NPL), or EPA Superfund list.

    The Arco Quarry is a man-made borrow pit dug in the 1970ís, which has since filled with water and evolved into a recreational fishing site. The Arco Quarry is approximately six acres in size and hosts a diverse array of both fresh and marine fishes. There are visitors to the area, but most fishers at the Arco Quarry reside in the Arco neighborhood.

    Staff from the Glynn County Health Department, the Glynn Environmental Coalition, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources collected representative specimens of edible fish from the Quarry in spring 2005.   Bluegill, Catfish, and Mullet were caught and prepared for shipment.  The samples were sent to the University of Georgia Agricultural Services Laboratory for analyses. The objective was to determine if fish caught from the Quarry contained contaminants at levels of health concern for people eating fish from the Quarry, including sensitive populations (e.g., pregnant women; children).

    Fish testing did find PCBs and mercury in the fish, and the results were sent to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) for analysis and production of a formal Health Consultation.

    The Health Consultation was released recently by the Georgia Department of Public Health, which has determined that this site poses a public health hazard and people should restrict consumption of certain species.  Human exposure to contaminated fish has occurred, is occurring, and may occur in the future.  One contaminant, mercury, is present in catfish and pan fish at levels that suggest that pregnant and nursing women, young children, and women of childbearing age should limit their consumption of these species.

    Recently, a large area of the Arco community was purchased by Georgia-Pacific Pulp and Paper, including the Arco Quarry.  The area has been fenced and much of the vegetation cleared, which has blocked access of the subsistence fishers that most frequently fished in the area.

    While the GEC is not pleased that the EPA refused to test the fish, nor that it took three years to complete the Health Consultation, we have learned over the years that we can form partnerships to get the job done when federal agencies charged with protecting human health and the environment refuse to do their duty.

The Arco Quarry has been purchased by Georgia-Pacific and fenced since fish were collected and analyzed for PCBs and Mercury.


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