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Brunswick, Georgia 31521
Phone: 912-466-0934
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  created 2-6-08
 
 
 

A Look Back at 2007 and Forward to 2008
 

 
 

The Glynn Environmental Coalition’s message that a clean environment and a healthy economy are inseparable helped form diverse partnerships and a common vision for our community’s future during 2007.  Building upon the recent success in overturning the biased toxaphene analytical method, efforts to assure Altama Elementary School is safe have us moving forward as a united community. As we emerge from our industrial legacy and toxic sites are cleaned up, impatience grows for those with horrendous toxic messes like Hercules to be good neighbors and clean up their decades-old contamination.  Efforts to protect water resources continue as the GEC and our partner organizations wait for the upcoming Georgia legislative session and passage of the Water Management Plan, which has been developed over the past three years.  Our victories and successes are being noticed by local politicians, developers, and investors who are increasingly becoming shareholders in making coastal Georgia a safe and healthy place to live and raise our families.

   The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) educated our community about how it became so polluted and why we continue to have health-threatening pollution, and developed a long-term action plan.  We learned how the law was being circumvented so industries could continue polluting our air, water, and soil, hide toxic chemicals in our community, and keep from cleaning up their toxic sites.  Attitudes and expectations of our community have changed as more realize a clean environment and healthy economy are key to our future.  Environmental agencies at the State and Federal level, which to a large extent facilitated and made possible the environmental destruction, have made some progress but continue to fall short of their regulatory responsibility.  More often than not, the environmental agencies have put the interests of the polluter over those of our community.  This realization has been a key factor in the development of local partnerships to demand action by those charged with protecting the health and welfare of citizens in coastal Georgia.   The realization that a clean environment is crucial and inextricably linked to the future economic viability of our community has grown over the past year.

 

Clean and Safe Schools & Neighborhoods

    Overturning the Toxaphene Analytical Method Which Hides Pesticide in Our Community - The toxaphene pesticide analytical method which hid this poison in our community has arguably been the largest threat to the health and welfare of Glynn County families because this poison is widespread and has contaminated soils, air, water, and seafood. The list of places of concern is long, and includes Altama Elementary School, the football stadium area, T Street Dump in the Turtle River estuary, Terry Creek, and pervasive contamination at the Hercules Plant.    

   Altama Elementary School Retesting -  After our 9 year effort, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that inappropriate testing that did not report all toxic chemicals present was used at Altama Elementary School during the containment of the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site.  Recent efforts towards appropriate testing of the playground and areas where toxaphene was found previously have met with an EPA refusal to act.  We want to remove all doubts about the safety of the school grounds by having them tested appropriately and all chemicals present reported.  We partnered with the PTA President and school officials to assure the

 
 

school grounds are safe, and are currently working with the Board of Education to obtain appropriate testing.  The local paper has supported our position on this.  Our goal is for all chemicals present in toxaphene-contaminated areas at Altama Elementary School to be reported, which will set precedent for the 6 other toxic sites containing this pesticide. Currently, all partners are waiting for a response from the EPA.

In 2008: The GEC will continue to push for re-sampling, by an appropriate method, of all toxaphene contaminated areas previously sampled by the biased method, including Altama Elementary School, neighborhoods, and 6 toxic sites containing toxaphene.

   

 
 

Hercules – A Bad Neighbor - The GEC is very concerned over the lack of progress in cleaning up the 39 toxic sites at the Hercules Plant since it was ordered to do so 20 years ago. In 2007, the GEC attended public hearings and submitted extensive comments on two proposed Hazardous Waste Permits from the GA-EPD.  Notable is that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Facility Investigation (RFI) has not been completed and not a single Corrective Action Plan (CAP) has been developed and implemented for any of the known 39 toxic waste sites on the Plant.  Inspections and investigations by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have found numerous cases of leaking and poorly maintained equipment, untrained personnel operating the Hercules Plant, and at least 175 cases in which the Emergency Response Team has been contacted regarding spills or releases at the Plant. While toxaphene was manufactured, an estimated 2 to 3 million pounds of this powerful poison were released into Terry Creek and remain a threat to the environment and to people eating seafood.

In 2008:  The GEC will continue to advocate for an end of EPA, GA-EPD, and Hercules inaction at the Plant, Terry Creek Site, and other toxic sites where Hercules disposed of chemical wastes.  Locally, the GEC will continue building partnerships with community leaders, businesses, and residents to resolve the recalcitrance of Hercules and the environmental agencies that continue to allow Hercules to leave their toxic mess in our community without regard to the economic blight it brings upon areas around the Plant and around their other toxic sites.

 

Education and Health

    Subsistence Fishers Contaminated Seafood Awareness Project - The GEC and our partners (Glynn County Health Dept. and the GA Dept. of Natural Resources) developed and have distributed more than 20,000 advisory hand-outs in 2005 to now.  Over 2,000 subsistence and recreational fishers were contacted one-on-one at fishing spots in the advisory area by GEC community outreach workers.  This educational effort has expanded to include guest teaching in our schools, presentations to community and civic organizations, and partnering of students and researchers to further study the seafood contamination problem.  GEC volunteers expanded community outreach in subsistence fishing areas and docks, and distributed advisory hand- outs to stores selling fishing licenses.

In 2008:  The GEC has printed an additional 12,000 updated flyers in English and Spanish, and are continuing community outreach to subsistence fishing areas through volunteer efforts.  If adequate funding is obtained, these efforts will be greatly expanded in 2008.   Laminated advisories will continue to be posted in subsistence fishing areas.  The GEC has been invited to guest teach in Glynn County middle schools, educating about "Contaminated Seafood and Your Health", which stresses the importance of young women avoiding the chemicals in fish that will be passed to their unborn children during fetal development.

   Environmental Education/Guest Teaching - The GEC supports environmental education in our schools by continuing to do guest teaching.  Recently, the GEC was invited to teach contaminated seafood awareness to classes doing a science project and cleanup in areas with contaminated seafood.

  

 
 
Wicker Tuten was the winner of the
2007  science fair Lipscomb Award.
 
 

Facilitating Teacher, Student, and Researcher Partnerships -  A teacher, student, and researcher are working together to test crabs in Turtle River for contaminants.  While guest teaching, the GEC became aware of specific families with learning-challenged children who went to contaminated areas to catch their seafood.  The GEC partnered with the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service to facilitate funding for this research project.  

GEC Support of Student Science Fair Projects – The GEC works with students on environmental science fair projects that further community environmental education. The Lipscomb Award is presented each year to a student with a science fair project the GEC judges find “best epitomizes a concern and hope for a clean environment and healthy economy.”  In 2007, the award was won by Wicker J. Tuten for his project on soil erosion control.  The 2008 award recipient will be chosen on February 14th and the award presented on February 16th.

 
 

GEC Volunteers Learn and Do, and Much More – Volunteers are what made the GEC successful in 2007.  Special thank you to all who helped prepare the newsletter for mailing, planned meetings and events, worked around the office, or supported ongoing projects. Our volunteers went into the field to learn to sample water in our estuary, some visited fishing areas to carry on the Safe Seafood Campaign, and others photo documented unwise development in marshes and cypress swamps for the Buy Dry Land campaign.  GEC meeting high points were the marsh walk with Eileen Hutcheson, cookout and presentation by Satilla Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers  (with one BIG flathead catfish), the annual meeting, and the holiday gathering.

In 2008: The GEC is working on moving from a meeting to an activity oriented calendar.  (See “GEC Taking a LEAP”)

 
Gordon Rogers, Satilla Riverkeeper, holds an introduced
non-native Flathead Catfish removed from the river
in an effort to restore native fish stocks.

 

 
 

Water Issues

    The recent drought has brought the importance of being a good steward of our water resources to the forefront, and several initiatives are currently underway. The mantra “property rights” has been used as an excuse by local Zoning & Planning and County Commissions to allow variances to laws meant to protect all land owners.  What has been forgotten is that with rights come responsibilities, which include:

¨ 1.) Don’t  disturb your neighbors, which includes not filling your wetland and flooding your neighbors home.

¨ 2.) Don’t endanger others, which includes not damaging the estuary and the recreational and economic resources upon which others depend.

¨ 3.) Cleanup when you make a mess, which includes erosion and sedimentation controls and cleanup of chemical spills.

  

 
 
In January 2007, this cypress swamp was dry. 
By November 2007, a home had been built in the area. 
The water line is 3 feet up on the tree trunks.
  Buy Dry Land Campaign - We have addressed the broader problem of wetland filling and subsequent flooding of homes  built in the wetland by participating in the design and launch of a statewide “Buy Dry Land” campaign.  The goal is to reduce development of wetlands by reducing the willingness of people to purchase property which will flood. The “Buy Dry” campaign was kicked off in November 2006, and immediately followed by a drought and upsurge of development in wetlands and cypress swamps.  The GEC extensively documented some of these areas in preparation for the flooding that will occur when the drought subsides.

In 2008:   The GEC is prepared to document the results of the unwise development in Glynn County when rainfall returns to a more normal pattern. “A Swamp Always Remembers it is a Swamp,” which will become evident to those who have purchased homes built in wetlands.  The GEC fears it will be the County that is sued when homes flood, and the taxpayers will pay for the unwise decisions of the County Commission.

 
 

Upland Development and Estuary Preservation-  The Georgia Legislative Session had everyone working hard in 2007 to pass rules requiring a minimum 50 foot buffer for developments next to estuarine areas.  Even though these efforts have met stiff resistance from the developers, the goal of stopping further decline of our estuary and water resources remains.  The question being asked of the development community is, “If not buffers, how do we reach the goal of passing on our resources to our children as good or better than we received them?”

In 2008:  The GEC will continue efforts to bring consensus on what rules and regulations are needed to meet the goal of preserving our estuarine resources that are so economically important to coastal Georgia.

   Erosion and Sedimentation – GEC members will continue watching for erosion and sedimentation violations, which the GEC has been reporting for enforcement action on their behalf.  This work is largely done in partnership with the Altamaha Riverkeeper.

In 2008:  Because the agencies responsible for enforcing erosion and sedimentation laws have failed, and in some instances have actually facilitated the destruction of resources, the GEC anticipates legal action in 2008 to correct the problem.
 

 
  Georgia Water Management Plan – Many years of work on a Coastal and statewide Water Management Plan have raised many concerns that the final Plan may be a scheme to send water to Atlanta. As the Plan is currently written, Atlanta is not even required to comply. The GEC and 152 organizations allied under the Georgia Water Coalition are very concerned about the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Plan and legislative recommendations to be considered in January 2008.   Inter Basin Transfers (ITB) and reservoirs will take water, and the economic opportunities water brings, from downstream communities.  Whereas Atlanta’s current and separate Water Plan has the force of law, the Plan proposed for the rest of Georgia is only recommendations, and not a plan for managing water resources.  What is currently being proposed can more accurately be called a “Plan to make a Plan”.  
 


In 2008: 
The final Georgia Water Management Plan is expected to go to the Georgia Legislature in January 2008.  The GEC will continue to work with our alliance to assure the Water Plan will:

¨ Unite instead of divide Georgia between the Atlanta Metro District and the rest of Georgia

¨ Protect downstream communities

¨ Be adequately funded

¨ Require efficient water use everywhere, always

¨ Ensure water clean enough to drink and fish safe enough to eat

¨ Provide for public input and local action

 

   
 

Upland Stakeholder Committee: Our alliance achieved legal successes from challenging  developments that had sought permits under the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act; these victories led to the formation of the Upland Stakeholder Committee.  The GEC has actively commented during the process and served a supporting role by videotaping every Committee meeting.  State of Georgia appeals of recent court victories have undermined the Committee process but were appealed by coastal Georgia environmental organizations and the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

In 2008:  The ongoing Cumberland Harbor case will most likely determine the outcome of efforts to bring wise and sustainable development to coastal Georgia.  In cooperation with coastal organizations, we will be working to prevent current state efforts to write rules weakening the Marshlands Protection Act by allowing developers themselves to determine whether their projects have any environmental impact.

Regulatory Loopholes that Allow Georgia-Pacific Pulp Mill Polluted Water Releases: In partnership with GreenLaw and Altamaha Riverkeeper (ARK), the GEC appealed the 2001 Georgia-Pacific Pulp Mill wastewater (NPDES) permit. Some permit changes were made through settlement talks, but color and temperature remain issues.  As part of the settlement, a one-year study plan of the Mill’s wastewater was made part of the permit. The GEC and ARK did additional sampling of the Pulp Mill’s wastewater during the five sampling events in 2005.   Overwhelming evidence of pollution from the pulp mill was presented to Georgia-Pacific during a 2006 meeting, but they denied any impact to Turtle River. 

Current Status: The pulp mill NPDES permit came up for renewal in September 2006.  In partnership with GreenLaw and Altamaha Riverkeeper, the GEC submitted comments and specific NPDES permit requirements using the documentation and studies we have completed, which the GA-EPD did not include in the permit.  In 2007, partner organizations and GreenLaw decided not to appeal the permit at this time but will continue to monitor wastewater discharges and proposed permits.

 
 

Air Issues

 
 
Koch Industries bought the Georgia-Pacific Pulp and Paper Mill.  Koch’s dismal corporate environmental history is cause for concern, which increased with their request to increase air pollution by 12,000,000 pounds per year.
 

Significant progress in reducing air pollution is now threatened by the GA-EPD issuing several air permits to Georgia Pacific Pulp Mill to increase air pollution by 12,000,000 pounds per year.  Even though the GEC did comment that the Pulp Mill had submitted conflicting information in the permit applications, the GA-EPD still issued the permits.  Efforts to build local partnerships to challenge the air permits were not successful.

In 2008:  The GEC will continue to build upon efforts in our community to preserve the progress made in reducing air pollution and odors over the past two decades. 

 
 

Technical Assistance

    LCP Chemicals Superfund Site -  While significant progress has been made at the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site, several unresolved and important issues remain. 

   Identification of the Area of Operation - The EPA has limited testing to only the area occupied by the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site when it closed, and has resisted community requests to test the entire area of operations.  We are forming alliances and plans for action to obtain an unbiased accounting of all the toxic waste associated with the Superfund Site.  At least three times, the GEC has identified toxic areas thought to be attributable to the Site outside the area the EPA has designated as the Superfund Site.  For example, in March 2005,  3500 cubic yards of toxic soil were removed from the Goodyear Elementary schoolyard. The source of the soil appears to be from a 1930-1950’s dumpsite related to operations at the Superfund Site. 

In 2008: The GEC will continue efforts started in 2007 to identify all areas where historical LCP Chemicals Superfund Site operations took place, and continue to advocate for testing. Many of these areas are on Board of Education property, near public schools, or in minority and low-income neighborhoods.

 
 


Mercury and Caustic Brine Removal from Drinking Water
- Over 300,000 pounds of mercury sit in a pool of caustic brine (pH ~13) which has penetrated the confining layer and is entering our drinking water aquifer at the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site.   The GEC participated in the EPA’s September public meeting concerning the plan to address the problem, and was able to answer questions from the public the EPA was refusing to answer.  Noticeable at the “EPA’s” meeting was that EPA personnel were always accompanied by Honeywell employees or their PR person when asked questions by the public.

In  2008: The GEC will continue to monitor mercury and caustic brine removal and provide information about the removal’s effectiveness to our community.  The removal action is expected to take at least three years.

   


Progress has been made cleaning up the uplands at the
LCP Chemicals Superfund Site but groundwater and the marsh
remain extremely contaminated
and the fish from Turtle River unsafe to eat .

 

 
 

Blood Lead Level Testing for Children - Community organizing in the Arco neighborhood next to the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site resulted in part of the neighborhood being sampled by the EPA, which found isolated areas of lead.  In partnership with the Glynn County Health Department, free blood lead level testing is being offered and promoted throughout the community.

In 2008:  The GEC will continue to educate about the importance for ALL parents to have their child’s blood lead level checked.   Efforts will continue to let owners of pre-1974 housing know about the risks to their children from leaded paint.
 

 
 
The first work at the 84-acre Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site was to fix drainage to stop neighborhood flooding and clear trees in preparation for consolidating contaminated soil for treatment.  The drought made  working in lifeless ponds and wetland areas much easier.
 

Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site

    Stop flooding of homes by Superfund Site - Previous community organizing efforts resulted in residents requesting our help when they were flooded by toxic water from the Brunswick Wood Preserving (BWP) Superfund Site.  Building off efforts to help our Congressman to obtain Priority Ranking information about the Superfund site, funding for year 1 of 3 to clean up the site has been received from the EPA.  The first action taken by the contractor was to protect neighboring homes from flooding, and the GEC will continue to work with residents throughout containment of the site.

In 2008: The GEC will monitor efforts to stop neighborhood flooding from the Site when normal rain patterns return.  

 

EPA Refusal to Congressman - Community organizing, meetings, media, and technical assistance resulted in a request from our Congressman to obtain the Priority Ranking for the BWP site (this tells us where the site is ranked in the line-up for funding).  The EPA told our Congressman he could not have the information.   Our Congressman now believes what we have said about EPA secrecy being a problem.  Refusal to respond to Congress means the EPA is a rogue agency, and we are working with our congressman to fix the problem and obtain the information.  Efforts to obtain information will increase as the November 2008 elections approach. 

In 2008: The GEC will work to end EPA refusal to provide information to our Congressman and community.  The question to be answered in 2008: "Is the EPA answerable to Congress?"  The answer might come with the 2008 elections.

 
Other Toxic Sites

    Progress!  Of the 23 toxic sites in Glynn County, 8 have been cleaned up or contained, 11 have completed investigations or had the source of contamination removed, and 4 remain deadbeats, of which 3 are attributable to Hercules.   The Hercules Plant alone has 39 toxic waste sites with incomplete investigations, and none have been cleaned up.

In 2008:  The GEC will continue to work in favor of  cleanup for our industrial legacy.  The question to be answered in 2008 is, “If Hercules continues to refuse to clean up their mess, should they be allowed to remain in our community?”

 

Organizational Development

    Leadership and Enhancement Assistance Program (LEAP) of the Environmental Support Center - The GEC Board and membership will be working through the LEAP program to do an in-depth evaluation of the GEC, improve our public image, and broaden our fundraising and Board diversity during 2008. This is important since the GEC now represents the majority of citizens in Glynn County. A facilitated retreat will be held January 26-27, 2008, to develop plans for the future of the GEC.   See sidebar.

 

Phone Calls, Knocks on the Door, and Other Unexpected Requests for GEC Help

    The GEC has become a recognized resource for environmental information and help in our community and requests have grown each year.   In 2008, we anticipate many calls from real estate purchasers for information about toxic threats near property and homes, help finding the right agency to call concerning an environmental problem, and help in filing complaints.  The GEC fills the environmental watchdog roles that are missed by local, state, and federal agencies, which are more of a floor with big cracks than an environmental safety net.

In 2008: The GEC will expand our community role as the environmental authority, resource, and visionary for our community’s future.

 

Emerging Issues We Anticipate in 2008

    The GEC continues to receive reports that a private company is planning to import New York City waste (up to 11,000 tons per day) to the Port of Brunswick, and transport by rail through poor minority areas of Brunswick to a private landfill in an adjoining county.

In 2008: The Broadhurst Landfill expanded by over 500 acres in 2006, including access to the railroad.  We continue to form partnerships in anticipation of fighting this plan to turn southeast Georgia into New York City’s dumping ground.

 

Members, Supporters, and Volunteers

We are grateful for all the GEC members, supporters, and volunteers who share our vision and have helped in our effort to make our community a safe and healthy place to live and raise our families.  Many of our successes have only come because we have been able to stay diligent over the years it has taken to prevail, and our victories are due to your continuing support. We offer a special thank you for the grants from:

Sapelo Foundation
Norman Foundation
Environmental Support Center

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