Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Toxic Soil Agreement Now Public

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Toxic Soil Agreement Now Public

Article excerpt

BRUNSWICK -- The Georgia Environmental Protection Division made

history this week with the first ever public hearing on a

consent agreement it made with a company accused of violating a

state regulation.

The agency entered into the agreement with the Brunswick

chemical plant, Hercules Inc., over the movement of a mound of

soil contaminated with toxaphene, a now banned pesticide

formerly produced at the plant.

In the past, such agreements were negotiated and signed in

secret, but under new rules the agency must conduct public

hearings on agreements involving hazardous waste.

The agency conducted its first such public hearing Thursday

night at Burroughs-Molette Elementary School, just a few blocks

from Hercules' fence.

Hercules Plant Manager David T. Smith Jr. signed the agreement

in July in which the companies agreed to pay an $80,000 fine,

remove the contamination and establish and maintain three

saltwater aquariums for 10 years.

Though Smith has signed the agreement, Environmental Protection

Director Hal Reheis won't until after all public comments are

considered in the coming months.

Andy Smith, a lawyer with the Tallahassee-based Legal

Environmental Assistance Foundation, said the public hearing

involves the community in the process like never before.

"I think what it's supposed to do is bring people together on

things that affect their lives," Andy Smith said. "What it's all

about ultimately is protecting people."

People who live near such sites have information and

experiences that should be considered in cleaning up

environmental damage, Andy Smith said.

Many who came availed themselves of the opportunity to speak

out against portions of the agreement.

Hercules placed photos of the contaminated soil around the room

and Andy Smith saw a problem in them.

"It's still uncovered. It can leach. It can move," Andy Smith

said.

He also wants the state to impose deadlines on the cleanup and

secure financial assurance that money will be available to

complete the job if the company leaves Brunswick.

Andy Smith also didn't like the idea of aquariums that show a

pristine environment.

"One of toxaphene's purposes was to kill fish," he said. That

started a low rumble from the crowd of more than 160, most of

whom were Hercules workers.

The Rev. Zack Lyde, leader of the grassroots environmental

group Save the People, also was derisive of the aquariums.

"You're going to give us three lousy tanks of fish" to

compensate for poisoning fish people eat, Lyde said. "We want to

see what fish look like on our plates. We want them safe so we

can eat."

Lyde made it clear that he wants people paid for toxaphene

contamination in the neighborhoods. …

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