P. O. Box 2443
Glynn Environmental Coalition 2002 Annual Report
The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) had a very busy and successful 2002 and we are looking forward to several victories in 2003. We can attribute much of the progress in 2002 to the networking, partnerships and coordination that's been developed over the past few years between local, state and regional organizations and agencies, i.e., Residents United for Planning and Action, Sierra Club, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Altamaha Riverkeeper, Southern Environmental Law Center, Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation, and Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest. GEC's involvement in many issues gave some wins, some losses and some work for 2003. A detailed synopsis of efforts on clean schoolyards, the hotline and Greenspace can be found at our office and information is always available and all inquiries are welcomed. Please feel free to contact the office at 466-0934 for further information. We have many plans for the coming year and a full agenda for 2003.
After many years of submitting comments and working within the "Public Comment Period" system of State and Federal agencies charged with protecting our environment, it was evident that little or no progress was being made. In early 2000, several local, state and regional environmental organizations discussed ways to end the issuance of permits for unwise developments. On the local and state level, permitting agencies were arguing that they "had to issues permits" through creative legal interpretations that we believed were legally indefensible. Several permitting and planning decision challenges have been initiated, with most of them still working their way through the legal system and a few notable victories.
Legal assistance from the Southern Environmental Law Center, and a partnership between the GEC, Residents United for Planning and Action, Sierra Club, Center for a Sustainable Coast, and Altamaha Riverkeeper lead to the successful challenge of the Manhead Marina Coastal Resources Division Permit. Even though the permit application clearly showed that Manhead Marina did not have a viable plan for handling sewage and wastewater, the Coastal Resources Division still approved the permit. This was the first successful appeal of a Coastal Resources Division permit and a significant first step towards putting an end to "rubber stamp" permitting. We expect a new Manhead Marina permitting proposal in 2003, so we must remain diligent. The related Emerald Point case that challenged the Coastal Resources Division permit for building bridges to three marsh hammocks was lost, but the ruling was overturned on appeal and is a case to watch in 2003.
In partnership with the GEC and Altamaha Riverkeeper, Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest filed an appeal of the Georgia-Pacific Pulp and Paper Mill NPDES (wastewater) Permit in 2002. Settlement talks resolved some issues, and a 2003 court date is expected for the unresolved issues.
The GEC has been working with the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) on several projects. Much of 2001 and 2002 were spent doing the necessary research, case development, and preliminary court filings, but we are already seeing results. In summary:
- LEAF legal assistance succeeded in having the Terry Creek Dredge Spoil Areas/Hercules Outfall Site Public Health Assessment released by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. After reading the Public Health Assessment, it was evident why there had been so much political pressure to prevent release.
- After LEAF filed a sixty-day notice of intent to suit, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued flawed draft air permits for the Hercules Plant and Georgia-Pacific Pulp and Paper Mill. Currently, we are exploring our legal options, but do expect to file permit appeals in early 2003.
- After several years of working through the administrative process, the GEC's case regarding EPA wrongdoing at the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site has made little or no progress. As the Acting EPA National Ombudsman continues to review our case, the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation is reviewing our legal options. In a nutshell, the GEC claims the EPA and Hercules entered into numerous agreements that were in violation of Superfund laws. Some of these EPA/Hercules agreements were for only Glynn County, and now involve numerous local toxic waste sites.
During 2001, the GEC worked with the Glynn County Health Department and Glynn County Schools to resolve the controversy over previous testing of our schoolyards, which found some areas of unknown toxic chemicals. On November 12, 2001, the Glynn County Board of Education approved the testing plan, appropriated $5,000 towards the $10,000 project. As a condition of the partnership with the Board of Education, the testing plan was reviewed by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry and confirmed as superior to previous testing of our schoolyards. Skidaway Institute of Oceanography sampling during April and May 2002, conducted a screening analysis of schoolyard soil samples, and a full chemical analysis was completed on those that indicated chlorinated chemicals. The final report was released in early November, and Glynn Schools took action to address the most contaminated areas before the GEC presented results at the November Board of Education meeting. The Glynn County Health Department is currently working on a health assessment based on the results of the schoolyard testing.
During 2002, the GEC Hotline received sixty-three calls. Six calls resulted in the anonymous reporting of environmental violations. There was a marked increase in GEC Hotline calls concerning zoning and planning decisions. The Live Oak Power Plant and Whitlock Street Asphalt Plant (near Brunswick High School) generated the most calls. Approval of the Live Oak Power Plant Site Plan by the Glynn County Zoning and Planning Commission resulted in the first ever appeal of a Site Plan in Glynn County by the GEC and Altamaha Riverkeeper. Since Glynn County contends that only the Building Permit and not the Site Plan can be appealed, we continue to monitor developments. A tremendous number of calls were received regarding the proposed Whitlock Street Asphalt Plant. Currently, the asphalt plant zoning application is incomplete, and no action has been taken to complete the application process. An increase in Hotline calls for information about contamination around or near homes for sale indicated a greater public awareness about the extensive contamination in Glynn County.
The GEC continues to support the development of the Glynn County Green Space program, and advocate for preservation of significant natural areas. There will be several opportunities to preserve sensitive areas as part of the Superfund Site process. Due to the glacially slow progress at our Superfund Sites, it might be several years before resource restoration plans are completed.
Even though there was a pile of paper produced for Glynn County's four Superfund Sites in 2002, there was little work done to cleanup or contain the contamination. As we receive more information about our Superfund Sites, more potential problem are being discovered.
In spite of the extensive removal action at the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site, several serious problems remain. There has been much concern about the threat to our drinking water supply from the ~300,000 pounds of mercury that remains in a pool of caustic brine with a pH of 13. Horizontal wells were drilled and sampled under the limestone layer that was expected to prevent mercury from entering our drinking water aquifer. Even though we were assured that crystal clear pure water would be found, results show that mercury and other chemicals have penetrated the limestone and are present above drinking water standards. A second round of sampling has been conducted and the results are expected in 2003. The Arco neighborhood that adjoins the Site has not been tested. The lack of this data and a Public Health Assessment has resulted in an unknown risk to the residents, and the refusal of banks to make loans in the area. Testing of the Arco neighborhood will be a GEC priority in 2003. Other problems that remain are extensive marsh and seafood contamination, seeps of contaminated water to the estuary, and a large number of documents that the EPA has not released.
The Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site is an "orphan" Site, which means that the EPA is planning and conducting the cleanup. With the EPA in charge, you would think that the cleanup would move forward and all necessary steps would be taken to protect the public, but this is far from what has been happening at the Site. The EPA continues to use residential wells as monitoring wells, which means they will know drinking water is contaminated only after people have been drinking the water. So far, the EPA has been fighting all efforts to get monitoring wells between the Site and residential wells. In a related matter, the EPA has no wells below the so-called "confining limestone layer" under the Site. The EPA is depending on the limestone to contain the contaminated groundwater for more than a hundred years, but as we have seen at the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site, it is probably already leaking and moving towards residential wells. Monitoring wells will be a priority in 2003.
No progress has been made at the Terry Creek Dredge Spoils Areas/Hercules Outfall Site for the past two years. The EPA claims that they do not know what they are testing for, and are conducting a study of analytical methods for the pesticide toxaphene. All the parties in the study, except the Georgia Environmental Protection Division Laboratory, have completed their analytical work. The Public Health Assessment for the Site was released by Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry in August, which was very critical of the biased toxaphene analysis method that has been used to date. Repeatedly, the EPA, Hercules, and Georgia Environmental Protection Division laboratories have failed to find very high levels of toxaphene in samples.
The Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site cleanup remains incomplete as the second five-year review is being conducted. Even though the EPA and Hercules contend the Site has been remediated, the Site will not be complete until the Final Remedial Action Report is submitted. In order to do the report, Hercules must demonstrate that the remedial action has been successful. To date, test results do not indicate that the remediation has been successful. From 1997 to 2002, the GEC has submitted a copious amount of questions about the Site that the EPA has out rightly refused to answer. Currently, an EPA National Ombudsman case has been opened over the EPA's refusal to respond to the GEC and community.
Presentations and Education
Educational presentations were mix with a good bit of fun during the year. James Holland, Altamaha Riverkeeper, started our year with a presentation about pulp mill wastewater impacts in coastal Georgia. Driftwood Nature Center sponsored the Earth Day event with live music, food, and fellowship. Our guest speaker at the GEC annual membership meeting, Dr. Keith Maruya from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, told us about his work in our estuaries and gave an update on the schoolyard-testing project. Kids lined up for the beanbag toss at CoastFest, as we provided information about the GEC and answered questions about the area. Presentations of a more technical nature were done for the numerous Live Oak Power Plant hearings and town hall meetings, and Hercules and Georgia-Pacific air permit public hearings.
Advocacy and Comments
Comments were submitted on the Georgia-Pacific Pulp Mill and Hercules Plant Draft Title V Air Permits, and public hearings were requested. The GEC submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief concerning attempts by the responsible parties at the LCP Chemicals Site to have the court apply the Georgia Hazardous Sites Response Act (HSRA) to the Nuisance Law, which would have established "allowable" levels of chemicals that could be left on neighboring properties. The GEC project manager was selected to serve on the Georgia Hazardous Sites Response Act Dialogue, which is an industry attempt to weaken the law. The GEC continued to monitor the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's progress on toxic sites in Glynn County and help our community comment on site investigations and cleanup plans.