A Look Back at 2005, and Forward to 2006
The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) has made significant progress
during 2005, earning victories through perseverance, continuing community
education, legal initiatives, and telling our story through increased media
interest and support. The GEC can attribute much of our recent progress to
community organizing, networking, partnerships and coordination between
local, state and regional organizations and agencies. We learned how the law
was being circumvented so industries could continue polluting our air and
water, hide toxic chemicals in our community, and keep from cleaning up
their toxic waste sites. Schools, low income and minority neighborhoods, and
the hospital are located in the most polluted areas. The GEC developed and
implemented an action plan to address identified problems.
Recent Victories and Plans for 2006
Changing the Toxaphene Analytical Method Which Hides Pesticide in Our
Community and the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site
The GEC documented the 1991 illegal agreement
between the EPA, Georgia EPD, and Hercules chemists to change the analytical
method so this poison would not be found at the numerous toxic sites
contaminated with toxaphene in Glynn County. We sent our report and
documentation to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry
toxicologist, who wrote a Public Health Assessment documenting the cover-up
of toxaphene in Glynn County through the analytical method. This was a key
victory. We also documented illegal agreements between the EPA and Hercules
at the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site and requested that EPA
Headquarters order the legally binding cleanup agreement be enforced. After
no response from EPA Headquarters, we sent our documentation and report to
the EPA National Ombudsman, which evolved into an EPA Inspector Generalís
Status: Huge victory
after 9-year effort! The cover-up of toxaphene in our community has been
exposed by the EPA Inspector General and valid analysis is replacing the
biased method previously used. The U.S. Inspector General (IG) has issued
two reports. The first report released
September 26, 2005 covers EPAís failure to use appropriate toxaphene
analysis at the Hercules 009 Superfund Site and recommended the analytical
method we have been advocating. The
report addressed the need for retesting all Superfund sites nation-wide
where the biased analytical method was used, and was released December 21,
2005. The local newspaper editor has supported our call for retesting all
areas analyzed by the biased method.
In 2006, we will
push for re-sampling of all toxaphene-contaminated areas previously sampled
by the biased method. Priority areas are Altama Elementary School that abuts
the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site, neighborhoods surrounding the
Hercules Plant, followed by 6 toxaphene contaminated toxic sites.
Failure to Test Neighborhoods Next to Superfund Sites
Victory! Our eight-year effort was successful in
organizing the Arco neighborhood next to the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site
and getting part of the neighborhood sampled by the EPA, which found
isolated areas of lead. In partnership with the Health Department,
blood lead level testing is being offered and promoted throughout the Arco
residents want expanded testing, particularly in the historical African
American sections of Arco.
In 2006, we will
continue community organizing and education while working towards
comprehensive testing of Arco.
EPA Refusal to Test Arco Fishing Pond Forms Partnership
EPA refused to test fish from a popular fishing pond
in Arco. We partnered with the Health Department and the Georgia Coastal
Fisheries section of the Department of Natural Resources and took fish
Status: The fish had
elevated levels of PCB and mercury, and results are being used for a Health
In 2006, we expect a
completed Health Assessment for soils, air, and seafood for those that live
next to the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site, including Arco.
LCP Chemicals Superfund Site
Over 300,000 pounds of
mercury sit in a pool of caustic brine (pH ~13), which has penetrated the
confining layer and is entering a drinking water aquifer. Due to EPA
recalcitrance and inaction, the GEC has built community support for action
through a media and education campaign.
Status: The GEC will
continue our media and education campaign, and build off the GA-EPDís urgent
request that the EPA take immediate action. Through building credibility,
media support for this campaign has soared.
In 2006, previous
community organizing around the Arco neighborhood testing will be utilized
to get action, along with community education and media.
Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site
EPA secrecy has been the
greatest obstacle to getting action at the Site, which is contaminated above
and below ground with pentachlorophenol, dioxin, copper chromium arsenate,
and creosote. The containment plan is complete but due to the "orphan"
status of the site federal Superfund moneys will be needed to implement the
Status: We are
working with our Senators and Congressman to overcome EPA secrecy, determine
how the Site is ranked for funding, and working on funding to starting
containment of the Site. GEC members have waged an active media campaign
to generate support and end EPA secrecy.
In 2006, we want, at
a minimum, to see the drainpipe which has discharged toxic chemicals to
Burnett Creek for over 35 years stopped and funding to start containment.
Hercules was ordered to
determine the extent of plant site contamination in 1987 but has failed to
complete the task. Human health risks from groundwater and soil
contamination remain uncontrolled. Both the GA-EPDís and EPAís patience is
local media and Hercules worked against us very effectively. It is time for
community education about how Hercules has avoided "doing the right thing
for our community". Community and media support will help the GA-EPD and EPA
take action against this habitual violator.
In 2006, we will
build on the momentum to end the 18-year delay in determining the extent of
the toxic problem at the Hercules Plant.
Subsistence Fishers Contaminated Seafood Awareness Project
The GEC and our partner
agencies (Glynn County Health Dept. and the Dept. of Natural Resources)
developed and have distributed more than 20,000
seafood consumption advisory
brochures. Copies of the flyers have been made available at more than 14
different government agencies and more than 55 business locations. Signs
have been posted at 7 public boat ramps and 10 additional subsistence
fishing locations. In addition, they have been distributed at several
fishing tournaments and during presentations to schools and civic
organizations. The flyers were available at all the local places where
fishing licenses may be obtained, including Wal-Mart. Over 2,000 subsistence
and recreational fishers were contacted one-on-one at fishing spots in the
advisory area by GEC community outreach workers.
Status: Many fishers
have moved to areas outside the advisory area to fish for seafood to eat.
The project has been completed but we are currently making plans to print an
updated version in 2006.
In 2006, we will
print additional brochures when the 2006 update is released and do community
outreach to subsistence fishing areas.
Unregulated Toxic Air Releases
1.) Regulatory Loopholes that Allow Industryís Toxic Air Releases
Choking air pollution was instrumental to the GEC
forming 15 years ago and has been a priority from the beginning. Regulatory
malfeasance kept us from making any progress until we obtained legal
assistance from the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) in
We commented on the draft air permits and requested public hearings that
were well attended. When the GA-EPD responded to our comments, we learned
that they were refusing to obey the law that requires them to consider the
health impact from all permitted toxic air releases. In partnership with
LEAF, the GEC filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator in January 2003, which is the last administrative appeal
before filing in federal court, to force the GA-EPD to follow the law. The
EPA answered our complaint in late April 2004 but did not make a
determination, and Hercules and the GA-EPD intervened in the case. Our
suit was filed in U.S. District court after EPA failed for more than a
year to make a determination on our request to object to the Title V
operating permit for Hercules. Settlement was made in August 2004 requiring EPA to
make a determination on the petition within 90 days.
Status: Victory in getting an EPA response but
our petition was
denied and the response did not address documented unhealthful air releases
permitted by the GA-EPD, which was expected. An
appeal was filed June 14,
2005 in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Hercules, GA-EPD, and
EPA requested that the Court not allow oral arguments. Victory Ė we did win
and oral arguments start January 27, 2006. On November 29, 2005, the
officially proposed removing the Georgia law under which the GEC appealed
for relief from toxic air pollution. On December 15, 2005, the EPA filed a
motion to stay oral arguments so they can abolish the law in an attempt to
end our appeal for clean air.
In 2006 - A decision
is expected in 2006 on our case and the EPAís effort to abolish the Georgia
air law protecting citizens from toxic chemicals. The GEC is working for air
permits that address our unhealthful air. We will continue our community
education campaign to build support through the media and presentations to
civic organizations, public events, and guest teaching in school classrooms
2.) New Polluting Industries
The current widening of I-95 has resulted in
numerous asphalt plants attempting to locate in highly populated minority
and low-income areas of Brunswick, and more are expected. While two were
defeated through community organizing, one did get a permit.
In 2006, we expect
several asphalt companies to attempt to locate in minority and low-income
areas of Brunswick and Glynn County for the widening of I-95. Requests for
help is expected, as in 2005.
1.) Surface Water Protection - Regulatory Loopholes that Allow
Polluted Water Releases
In partnership with the Georgia Center for Law in
the Public Interest and Altamaha Riverkeeper (ARK), the GEC appealed the
Georgia-Pacific wastewater (NPDES) permit (plant was sold to Koch Cellulose
in May 2004). Some permit changes were made through settlement talks, but
color and temperature remain issues. As part of the settlement, a one-year
study of the Millís wastewater was made part of the permit.
Status: The GEC and ARK did additional sampling of the Pulp Millís
wastewater during the five sampling events in 2005 (in partnership with, and
recommended by Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest). The GEC
obtained dissolved oxygen levels, temperature, and collected samples for
laboratory analysis and took aerial photographs.
In 2006, we will
release the report being prepared in consultation with Georgia Center for
Law in the Public Interest concerning sampling conducted by the pulp mill,
and next steps are currently under discussion.
2.) Groundwater Protection
The GEC continues to work with the Georgia Water
Coalition and our partners in developing comments on the Georgia Sound
Science Initiative (SSI), which is developing a groundwater management plan
for Coastal Georgia. Recently, the bankruptcy judge in the Durango Pulp Mill
case ruled that the 40 million gallon permit could be auctioned off. Georgia
considers water a public resource that is not for sale. The Georgia
Department of Natural Resources and diversified groups have united to keep
water a public resource.
Status Ė With our
partner organizations, comments were submitted including our major
groundwater contamination areas so they will be included as part of any
groundwater use plan for Coastal Georgia.
In 2006, we will
continue to be diligent as interest groups such as pulp and paper, farmers,
and developers lobby for special interest provisions in the Water Resource
Management Plan, and continue working to keep water a public resource with
other environmental organizations.
Cover-up of Toxic Chemicals on Schoolyards
1.) Goodyear Elementary School Clean-up
The GEC formed a partnership during 2001 with the
Health Department, Board of Education (BOE), and Skidaway Institute of
Oceanography to investigate the cover-up of toxaphene on the schoolyards
that had been documented by the GEC. In November 2001, a proposed sampling
plan was approved by the BOE. A work plan was completed, and three
schoolyards and a recreational facility were sampled during April and May of
2002. The analytical results were presented to the BOE in November 2002. The
Health Department and Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry used
our sampling results to complete a
Health Assessment and evaluate further
action on the school-yards.
Status: Victory! Politics surrounding the G8 Summit delayed the
Health Assessment release until March 2005, which was followed by
3500 cubic yards of toxic soil from the schoolyard. The Board of Education
said the source of the soil is a mystery, but we have evidence it came from
a 1930-1950ís dumpsite related to operations at the LCP Chemicals Superfund
Site. We are working on exposing the source of toxic soil so our community
does not make the same mistake again.
In 2006, exposing
the source of the toxic soil will be a major task. Already, the Board of
Education has hired a lawyer to investigate, but has so far refused to look
at our evidence supporting the source as the old LCP Chemical Superfund Site
dump from the 1930-50ís.
2.) Clean New School Sites
The Board of Education (BOE) proposed a Habersham Street elementary
school site. The GEC documented activity from the LCP Chemicals Superfund
Site and presented it to the BOE.
Testing found toxic and solid waste on the
property. The BOE decided in
June 2004 to look at other potential
school sites, but the GEC remained alert because further attempts were made
to use the contaminated site for a school. The final decision on another new
school location was made in September 2005, but we continued our efforts
until site selection was finalized.
An organizational development workshop is planned for February 25, 2006,
with Lois Gibbs from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. The
workshop will be preceded by a media event and followed by Lois doing a
motivational speaking event for our community. Workshop training will
include: organizing group structures, how to keep people active, organizing
for the long haul, and proactive strategies to move your issues forward.
Emerging Issues We Anticipate in 2006
Currently, we are receiving reports that a private company is planning to
import New York City waste (up to 11,000 tons per day) through the Port of
Brunswick, and transport by rail through poor minority areas of Brunswick to
a private landfill in an adjoining county. We continue to form partnerships
in anticipation of fighting this plan to turn southeast Georgia into New
York Cityís dumping ground.
The GEC Board voted to add a part-time position in 2006 for
organizational development, member database management, volunteer
coordination, web site updating, and other duties. We are looking forward to
Robert Randallís help in 2006.
Thank You to All our Supporters and Volunteers
The work and effort of our members and volunteers is
responsible, in large part, for all we have accomplished. The GEC Resource
Center exists because members understood how important education and
involvement in decisions that effect our health and economy are to our
childrenís future. Their help with community organizing, being our eyes and
ears out in the community, and bringing emerging issues to our attention are
critical to the GECís success. We are grateful for all our members and
supporters who share our vision, including grants from:
- Sapelo Foundation
- Norman Foundation
- Public Welfare Foundation