EPA, Health Dept. release contamination findings

Testing finds low levels of PAH at Superfund site

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WAYCROSS, Ga. - Residents in Waycross, Georgia, were hoping to get some answers Thursday.

They believe that somehow their water is being contaminated, and they want to find out if that is the case, and if it is, what's being done about it?

Close to 50 people packed the Ware County School System Community Room to hear a presentation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Environmental Protection Division and the Georgia Department of Health.

The agencies recently tested some samples from several ditches and canals in the community on parts of the Seven Out facility Superfund site in Waycross.

But officials told the crowd that the results show low levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contaminants, and that they are not a present health threat to residents.

"There are a number of industrial facilities in the area and there are a lot of questions regarding various activities that have taken place in the past, various cleanups and what other issues might persist that the community has questions about," said EPA's Matthew Huyser.

Residents of Waycross requested the testing because of concerns with levels of contaminants in the ground from the former water treatment facility.

Community members made claims that many people living and working in the area of the Seven Out Tank Site were diagnosed with cancer and pointed at the contaminants as the cause of their diagnoses.

"We initially started noticing how many people were getting sick on our area. We have a lot of children who have gotten cancer. We just had recently another child who has been diagnosed with a brain condition, brain cancer. And we've been very concerned. Then we started, after we started seeing all these children that we had in our area that were sick, then we started seeing chemicals, little chemicals, blue fluorescent chemicals coming up out of the sidewalks -- out from under people's homes. It was floating down our canal," said Waycross resident Joan Tibor McNeal.

The Seven Out site previously received industrial wastewater for on-site treatment, but failed to meet discharge requirements. Despite losing its permit to accept waste in March 2004, the site continued to receive waste until the owners abandoned the site and left approximately 350,000 gallons of liquid waste and 150,000 gallons of sludge or solids at the site.

"The EPA did a cleanup here in the past at one industrial facility from 2004 to 2009. We've been involved in the cleanup of an industrial wastewater treatment plant and we closed that out in 2009," said Huyser. "There were some questions that the community had back in 2013 related to that, and we've been here since to address those."

The EPA and the Georgia Health Department also told residents in Waycross on Thursday that they will not be conducting any more samplings from the Seven Out facility, stating that the PAH contaminants detected are common in developed communities.

"The state of Georgia has ongoing sites that are being actively monitored," said Huyser. "Some cleanups that are actively going on the state of Georgia is overseeing, they are reviewing those activities. They're making sure those are being done within the parameters that have been negotiated within the law and that those are cleaned up the way the state and the community wants. The issues that EPA has done in the past, we consider those closed out. We found no further issues that would warrant additional sampling nor response action."

"We want them to give us documents from where the water has been tested, the actual well testing from the city and the county. Current testing in wells, also pushing for Ruskin elementary and high school, to have testing done. Moms who had babies with cancer, all teachers at one school," said Tibor McNeal. 

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