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Dr. Bull Supports Efforts to Test Altama Elementary
Community Waits for EPA Response

 
 

November 12, 2007

                     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information contact:
Daniel E. Parshley
Phone:  912-466-0934
E-mail: gec@darientel.net

   Dr. Michael Bull, Superintendent of Glynn County Schools, signed a letter on October 3rd asking the EPA to re-visit our community's request to test Altama Elementary School for chemical contamination.  Dr. Bull has joined the Glynn Environmental Coalition, The Brunswick News, the Altama Elementary School PTA President, and others in requesting the EPA to follow the advice of the EPA Office of Inspector General and resolve the uncertainty caused by the previous erroneous testing for the pesticide toxaphene at the school. Everyone is now waiting for the EPA's response. 

   Toxaphene is a pesticide that is now banned world-wide under the Stockholm Convention, and also called one of the “dirty dozen” or “toxic twelve” chemicals that were so dangerous that they were banned from use through an international agreement developed at the United Nations.  Toxaphene lasts a long time in the environment, resists breakdown, and can travel long distances through the atmosphere.  High levels of toxaphene were found in fish and other animals in areas where it was never used. 

   On July 10th, the Glynn Environmental Coalition went before the Glynn County Board of Education and proposed they become partners with the Coalition in making a joint request to the EPA to retest Altama Elementary School.  The school abuts the Hercules 009 Landfill Site and toxic waste was removed from the school property in the mid-1990s.  Recent developments have cast doubt that all chemicals were removed from the school. 

   At the July 17th Facilities Committee meeting, Glynn County Schools asked the GEC to work with Jack Childs, the attorney hired to advise the Board of Education concerning testing Altama Elementary School.  The GEC has had many calls with Mr. Childs, providing him information.  His recommendations, in the form of a draft letter to the EPA, were presented at the October 2nd Glynn Schools Facilities Committee Meeting. 

The EPA Inspector General found that all chemicals were not reported by the method used at the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site and appropriate testing is needed.  Whenever toxic contamination is expected, the first step is to test and report what is present.  If all the chemicals are not reported, an assessment of the risks cannot be completed and a correct conclusion about the safety of the property may not be able to be reached. 

"We are asking if children are at risk right now," said Bill Owens, President of the Coalition.  "We hope there is not a problem, but we need facts, and not just hope, to assure the school is free of toxic chemicals." 

   "We are disappointed that the EPA releases incorrect statements and misleading information about Altama Elementary School," said Bill Owens, Coalition President. 

   The EPA was extensively quoted in a July 14, 2007, Brunswick News article, “Toxic Site Adjacent to School Still Issue.”  Unfortunately, many of the statements by the EPA were either wrong or misleading.  The Coalition provided the EPA the opportunity to correct their errors, but on October 24th, Laura Niles, EPA External Affairs, who was quoted in the article, contacted the Coalition to say the EPA would not be issuing a clarification. 

EPA Quote: While the school itself, at 5505 Altama Ave., Glynn County, was never part of an environmental cleanup site, land adjacent to it was. 

Coalition Correction: Altama Elementary School is part of the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site, and toxic wastes were removed from school property during two removal actions. 

EPA Quote: The EPA says the tests determined that the levels of toxaphene present are acceptable and not dangerous. 

Coalition Correction: The tests the EPA referenced were of water.  Water tests do not determine if toxaphene levels in school soils are safe.  A very misleading statement by the EPA. 

EPA Quote: According to the EPA, an acceptable presence of toxaphene at the surface level of a site is three parts per 1 million parts soil.  The 2006 tests show levels well below that, Niles said. 

Coalition Correction: The legally mandated cleanup level is 0.25 parts per million, not 3 parts per million.  The 2006 tests tested water, not soil, and are meaningless to protecting school children from soil exposure. 

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