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Brunswick, Georgia 31521
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Created 7-20-07
 

GEC Staying Busy in 2007 

An Overview of GEC Projects, Initiatives,
and Successes During the First Half of 2007
 

 
 

Summary 

   The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) has been responding to rapid changes over the past six months.  While the political climate has been anti-environment, the GEC has identified unique opportunities for strengthening our organization, obtaining victories, and building new partnerships.  The environmental consciousness of our community is rising and the GEC is growing with the addition of those seeking ways to express their beliefs in creation care.  Secrecy, and the Bush regime’s desire to maintain secrecy at any cost, resulted in funding for some containment at the Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site rather than revealing how decisions are being made politically.

   Partnerships have strengthened through coordination and strategic planning to address the many important water issues we currently face.  Increasingly, many State and coastal Georgia groups work together on comments and preparing for public hearings on proposed permits, state water management plans, and coastal development rules.  The GEC has been involved in those efforts.

   Educational outreach continues with the Contaminated Seafood Awareness Campaign, guest teaching in schools, helping students with science projects, and bringing together students, teachers, and researchers.  Several monitoring and testing projects are underway for 2007-8. 

   Building off our success in exposing the erroneous toxaphene analytical method, the GEC is working with the Altama Elementary School PTA and school officials to obtain proper testing of the school property abutting the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site to assure that it is safe for children.   Community organizing continues around the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site in preparation for many EPA meetings in the Fall and early 2008.  Key issues are mercury in our drinking water aquifer and testing of the Arco neighborhood.

   The GEC is working through the Environmental Support Center’s two-year Leadership Enhanced Assistance Project (LEAP) to diversify fundraising and our Board and to improve public perception of the GEC.  Scheduled activities have been planned to better coordinate and utilize volunteer efforts on current projects.

 Water Issues

    The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) and our partner environmental organizations continue working on upland development rules, buffers, erosion and sedimentation, and the State water management plan through meetings, emails, comments, and developing winning strategies.  Efforts have resulted in development of comments across organizations and campaign development on the coastal and State levels.  This coordination has resulted in discussion of diverse issues which increases effective commenting within the minimal time allotted at public hearings.
 

 
 


The recent surge of building homes in wetlands and cypress swamps in Glynn County will lead to many more homes flooding like the one above.  Filling wetlands removes capacity to hold storm water, flooding established homes and businesses.
 

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Buy Dry Land Campaign – The campaign to warn buyers about purchasing homes built in wetlands was begun in November 2006 and immediately followed by a drought.  GEC members have been taking photos of homes being built in flood-prone areas near where they live to compare with future photos taken after rains and hydrological conditions return to normal.

   Upland Development and Buffers -  The Georgia Legislative Session had everyone working hard on obtaining a minimum 50 foot buffer and proposed rules for developments next to estuarine areas.  Efforts to have minimal buffers become law have met stiff resistance and planning for the next legislative session is already in progress. 

   Erosion and Sedimentation – GEC members have been out 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 Altama Riverkeeper.

 
 

   Georgia Water Management Plan – Many years of work on a Coastal and State-wide water management plan have raised many concerns about what the final Plan may look like.  Concerns about the Georgia Water Plan degenerating into a scheme to send water to Atlanta have all organizations very concerned about what the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s legislative recommendations might contain.  Repeatedly, the GEC and our partner organizations have stated that Inter-Basin Transfers (ITB) must be prohibited legislatively.  So far, clear requests to prohibit IBT have been met with obtuse responses.

 


Members of coastal Georgia organizations
discussed the Water Management Plan with
Dr. Carol Couch after the May 31 public hearing
in Waycross.

 

 
 

Altama Elementary School Retesting

    EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that inappropriate testing was used at Altama Elementary School during the containment of the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site.  Efforts to have the EPA order appropriate testing of the playground and areas of the school where toxaphene previously was found and removed have been met with a refusal to act.  We want to remove all doubts about the safety of the school grounds by having them tested appropriately.  We met with the PTA President and school officials on June 13th to discuss the need to assure the school grounds are safe, which the PTA President supported.  The Board of Education’s action will be known after their next meeting.

Environmental Education and Contaminated Seafood Awareness Project

   The Contaminated Seafood Awareness project continues to grow and is fostering new partnerships and opportunities for community education.   We provided our informational flyer and training in best fish cleaning practices to families participating in the June 9th Plumbers & Pipefitters Union fishing tournament.  We are planning monthly tours of the fishing areas and docks for GEC members.  We are working with members who want to adopt a fishing area or dock near where they live.  

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

   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 Georgia Marine Extension Service to facilitate funding for this research project.

      GEC Supports Student Science Fair Projects –  The GEC worked with Robin Jones on her science fair project , which studied the community’s awareness about seafood contamination.  Robin Jones placed second at the state-wide level.
 

 
 
Honeywell believes the mercury and PCBs should not be cleaned up in the marsh but rather used to as an outdoor laboratory.  Meanwhile, the area continues to contaminate seafood and remains a risk to those consuming seafood from Turtle River.

 

 

LCP Chemicals Superfund Site   

   The GEC is reviewing several key studies and reports in preparation for many EPA meetings in the Fall of 2007 leading up to action at the LCP Site, including:

   Land - Uplands Investigation and proposed legal agreement to contain the Site.

   Water - Implementation plans to remove the mercury and caustic brine pool that is leaking into a drinking water aquifer.  Honeywell and the EPA have been moving extremely slowly as the contamination quickly expands.

   Estuary – Reviewed seafood sampling results and advocated for cleanup due to the dangerous levels of mercury and PCBs.

 
 

   Lead Level Testing for Children - Community organizing in 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 Glynn County Health Department, free blood lead level testing is being offered and promoted throughout the Arco community.  The Health Department has reported to us that parents from the area have been bringing their children to be tested for lead, some from the Arco community have elevated levels, and 3 children are currently being treated.

   Justice for Residents and Glynn County - The GEC worked with our community to obtain a $50 million dollar judgment against Honeywell for the polluting of our community, of which $25 million went to 120 families and $25 million to Glynn County.  The GEC supported this effort with community meetings, media, and an education campaign.

   Arco Community – The EPA and parties responsible for the Site have refused to follow Superfund law and report the full extent of operations, which included the minority and low-income Arco community.  The GEC is preparing to challenge the legally binding Record of Decision for the LCP Chemicals Soils, and continues to meet with legal counsel in preparation for action.

   The GEC is still feeling the loss of Joel Myers, a community activist in the African-American section of the most-affected neighborhood (Arco).  Joel, who also served on GEC’s Board of Directors, was killed in a car accident in October 2006.  We are now working to identify and develop other neighborhood leaders, including several meetings and calls with prospective individuals.
 

 

Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site 

   This will be a busy year with work finally re-starting at the Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site. Cleanup decisions are political under the Bush regime, and GEC used this fact to obtain funding for the cleanup.  Previous community organizing efforts had resulted in residents requesting our help when they were flooded by toxic water from the Brunswick Wood Preserving


A four acre lifeless pond of creosote, copper, chromium, arsenic, and pentachlorophenol  is the first area designated for containment.  Skeletal remains of animals that entered the area are common across the site.
Superfund Site. Community organizing, meetings, media, and technical assistance resulted in a request for our Congressman to obtain the Priority Ranking for the BWP site (this tells us where the site is ranked in the line for funding).  The EPA told our Congressman he could not have the information.  During the Bush regime, Superfund Site decisions have become secret. EPA would rather give money for the Site containment than reveal how decisions are being made!
 


The Hercules Plant is the last major toxic site without a completed investigation.  So far, 39 toxic waste sites have been identified at the plant.  Hercules was ordered to investigate the extent of contamination in 1987 but has failed to complete the task.

Other Toxic Sites 

    The GEC continues working with those who are making a good faith effort to cleanup toxic sites.  Meetings with Georgia Power concerning the Atlanta Gas Light Site have resulted in a final cleanup plan that is being implemented.  Only 4 of 19 sites on which the GEC has been working have incomplete investigations, of which 3 are Hercules sites.  Our community is increasingly aware that Hercules is not a good neighbor and fights all efforts to clean up.

 


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 in 2007.  Other than several requests to remove dead cats from under trailers and for better recycling, we were able to help those who called.  Many calls are from potential buyers for information about toxic threats near property and homes.  Others are helped finding the right agency to call concerning an environmental problem and help in filing complaints.  

Networking and Partnerships  

   Joint efforts with our local, state, and national environmental organizational partners have resulted in the GEC participating in and signing onto many final comments on emerging issues and proposed laws and rules.  Key issues include improving EPA risk analysis, fecal coliform standards, Toxic Right to Know Act, coal electric plant permits, environmental justice, incinerators, and national school construction standards.  

 Community Organizing, Strategic Planning, and Leadership Development  

   Meetings and Activities - The Glynn Environmental Coalition (GEC) held 6 membership and Board meetings to do project strategic planning, evaluation, and receive project progress reports from project managers, community organizers, and community outreach volunteers.  In addition, further work was conducted when volunteers met 3 times to prepare the GEC newsletter for mailing.  Between 5 and 30 members and volunteers attended these meetings.

   Many GEC projects are interrelated, and even though specific members might be working on one project it is important to understand how their work contributes to the larger mission and goal.  The GEC membership, Board, and meetings to prepare the newsletter are the key times that the GEC does comprehensive planning, evaluation, and shares both successes and setbacks.   These meetings are also important times for developing potential community leaders. 

   LEAP (Leadership and Enhancement Assistance Program) of the Environmental Support Center - The GEC is working through this program to improve our public image and broaden our fundraising and Board diversity. This is important since the GEC now represents the majority of citizens in Glynn County.  Expected grants of $50,000 were not awarded and we will be working to resolve this during the remainder of 2007.  We are encouraging all GEC members to join in this process. 

   GEC Focusing on Activities Rather Than Meetings - We are working on moving from a meeting to an activity oriented calendar in 2007.  Dates have been set when GEC members can receive training and participate in the Contaminated Seafood Awareness and Buy Dry Land Campaigns, and learn how to test our estuarine waters.

 

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