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Hercules – A Bad Neighbor?
By Daniel Parshley, Project Manager

 Hercules has often used the slogan “A Good Neighbor”.  Upon a closer look, this might not be true. A good neighbor cleans up after making a mess, doesn’t disturb their neighbors, and does not endanger others. 

 Clean Up After Yourself

    We all learned as children to clean up after ourselves, and when we did not, there were consequences.   Trying to hide that half-eaten dinner under the couch that looked like a weird mold-growing science project when discovered always had consequences around our house.  Hercules definitely has a mess at their plant.  At least 39 toxic waste sites are spread across the facility.  How Hercules has handled these toxic areas speaks volumes about this neighbor.
 

           Hercules Ordered to Determine the Extent of Their Toxic Mess

   In 1987, the Hercules Plant was ordered to investigate the extent of their toxic mess so risks to human health and the environment could be determined and cleanup or containment plans could be developed for toxic areas.  The process used is a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Facility Investigation, which is often called a RCRA Facility Investigation or just RFI. After 18 years, Hercules has failed to determine the extent of their toxic mess at the Plant.

           Hercules Hides Their Toxic Mess

    In 1991, Hercules was actively hiding their toxic sites.  Under the Hazardous Waste Handling Permit, Hercules is required to report suspected or identified toxic areas.   The following quote is from a Hercules Plant internal report.

“The Georgia EPD arrived at 1 PM, as planned, to conduct a RCRA Facility Inspection of the Brunswick Plant.  …Numerous areas of concern were found. Some should involve very little cleanup while others will be much more extensive and last years.  The inspectors have noted improvements in drum management but still consider us to “sloppy housekeeping”.  They could have cited many more SWMUs (Solid Waste Management Units) had they conducted a more diligent inspection and taken more time.  However, they will be back!  More inspections will follow!” 

          Hercules Hires Consultants to Delay Environmental Regulators 

   About 1994, Hercules hired Law Environmental and Engineering Services to help delay corrective work at one of their toxic areas.   If nothing else can be said, Hercules is a master of using consultants to delay environmental investigations and corrective action, which continues to this day.   The consultant wrote the following in a letter to Hercules.

“Last spring Hercules asked us to assist in delaying the corrective action for the Equalization Basin.  Based on our knowledge of the Georgia regulations and the EPD, we developed a Corrective Action Plan which “bought time” and which has received only minor comments from the EPD.”

 

 
 

    Hercules Fails to Clean Up
Toxaphene Plant

    Manufacture of toxaphene ended in 1980.  After 25 years, Hercules has failed to clean up contamination from toxaphene manufacturing.  In 1987, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division identified the toxaphene manufacturing area as a priority for action and ordered Hercules to investigate the extent of the problem and develop a cleanup plan.  Toxaphene in soils exceeds 8% and is suspected to be a major contributor to the continued release of toxaphene to Terry and DuPree Creeks.  Through the use of consultant, Hercules continues to delay any meaningful progress towards control and cleanup of the toxaphene manufacturing area.  The quality of work produced by Hercules consultants has been consistently substandard which has resulted in numerous Notices of Deficiency from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.  Bottom line is Hercules has demonstrated that they do not have the will or competency to cleanup their toxaphene manufacturing mess after 25 years.

 
Hercules Plant toxaphene manufacturing area (in circled area) has been designated Solid Waste Management Unit #5 by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and is one of 39 suspected or identified toxic areas.  The full extent of contamination at the Hercules Plant will not be known until the Facility Investigation is complete.
 
 
 
The T-Street Dump is located south of Koch Cellulose’s aeration basins, and west of the Academy Creek Sewage Treatment Plant, and sits in the St. Simons Sound estuarine system.
 

 
    Hercules Delays 4th Street Landfill and

T Street Dump Cleanups

    Glynn County has made tremendous strides at our 19 toxic sites on the Georgia Hazardous Site Response Act (HSRA) list.  Of these 19 HSRA sites, 8 have been cleaned up or contained, 6 have been investigated and cleanup or containment plans are in progress, and investigation of the extent of toxic waste remains incomplete at 4 HSRA sites.  Hercules is a potentially responsible party at 3 of the 4 without completed investigations, which are the 4th Street Landfill, T Street Dump, and Hercules Plant.  The investigative work done to date at all three Hercules HSRA sites has repeatedly been found deficient by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.  The reoccurring problem is Hercules’ consultants performing substandard work.

 
 

 
Hercules Put on Priority List for Clean Up

    In 1995, Hercules was placed on an EPA list of 1714 facilities Nationwide, 65 in Georgia, which were identified as a priority for cleanup.  The program was called the Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) and had two goals, get current human exposures and migration of contaminated groundwater under control.  After 10 years, Hercules is one of the four in Georgia not to achieve control of either current human exposures or migration of contaminated groundwater.

Don’t Disturb Your Neighbors

    Hercules’ record of disturbing its neighbors is well documented, and speak to the problem better than I possibly could. The following are excerpts from actual complaints received by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

 Complaint - 10:00 AM I received phone complaint from Mr. Ethridge Assistant Principal Burroughs Molette reporting 2 teachers sick to stomach and possible effects on special needs (total 29) children; several non-verbal.
Problem Found/Action
– Dimethyl sulfide leak was located and was being repaired.

 Complaint – Odor in air late Monday around 5 PM.  She became very ill, dizzy, vomiting, could not breath. Went to fire station.  They had to give her oxygen.
Problem Found/Action
– Referred caller to Air Protection Branch in Atlanta.

 Complaint – Hercules, periodically and at night, kicks out enough smoke to trip smoke alarms in complainant’s house.  Has to turn off alarms.  Has called Hercules once regarding the issue.  Problem periodic for last 2.5 years.
Problem Found/Action
– None reported.

 Complaint – Relating to the incidents of the previous few days where Hercules has released Dowtherm. It has resulted in stinging throat and lungs and a bloody nose in one person.  Caller very concerned it would happen again.
Problem Found/Action
- Release of Dowtherm, 2,000 lbs. and 1,000 lbs. the following day.  

Complaint –   … from Brunswick Environmental Health about a reported strong sulfur odor around Burroughs-Molette Elementary School.
Problem Found/Action
– Fugitive release during a crude turpine sulfate filter change.  Asked Hercules to submit letter outlining activity in the mill that day.

 Complaint – Husband a patient in S.E. Georgia Medical Center (local hospital).  While visiting husband, eyes became irritated, as well as patient.  Hospital maintenance crew advised common occurrence, allegedly from ambient air emissions from Hercules, enters hospital, causes such symptoms.
Problem Found/Action
– Georgia EPD speculates it is from hospital construction activities.

    There are many other similar complaints which have been made about the Hercules Plant.  What is so surprising is how often a citizen complaint results in Hercules going out into the plant and finding a leak, which leads us to: 

Do Not Endanger Others

    The frequency of chemical releases and spills at the Hercules Plant should be a safety concern to all in our community.  Since 1990, the Hercules Plant has had at least 170 reports of spills or releases to the Emergency Response Team.  Compared to the Pulp Mill’s 55 reports of spills or releases, Hercules has an accident about three times as often. It is not the number that is important – it is the amount and toxicity of the chemical released.  The releases at the Hercules plant are overall larger and the chemicals more toxic.  

 Is Hercules a good neighbor?

    Each of us must decide if Hercules has been a good neighbor and expectations of each person will be different.  As for myself, I expect Hercules to clean up after making a mess, don’t disturb their neighbors, and don’t endanger others.  Efforts to do otherwise is not being a good neighbor.

See related article:  Hercules: A Viable Company?

 

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