It was on this very evening three years ago that we celebrated the plugging of the PSC (Philip Services Corporation) sewer discharge unit!!! We finally felt our community was safe at last. I will forever be grateful to Fulton County Commissioner - Bill Edwards and his former Chief of Staff - Dyan Matthews for all they did behind the scenes to make this happen.
Today, what is even more amazing is that the story still continues. I just submitted an abstract of our community story to be a case study with the National Conversation Chemical Emergencies Work Group. I am copying it below along with attaching the handout created for the Baltimore meeting this past November. My continued prayer is that all of this will be used for the higher good and our children and grandchildren across this nation will greatly benefit from a safer environment.
Many blessings to you all during this Holiday Season!!
Constance (Biemiller) Thomas, Chair
South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force
As Margaret Mead once said:
Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
SOUTH FULTON AND FAYETTE COMMUNITY INGESTATION OF ETHOPROP EMISSIONS FROM LOCAL WASTEWATER TREATMENT FACILITY
Submitted by Constance Biemiller Thomas – 12-18-09
Background: The Philip Services Corporation (PSC) owns a wastewater treatment facility that lies on the South Fulton and Fayette County border. The facility was originally constructed as a Fulton County plant that discharged non-toxic treated waste into the Fulton County sewer system. This facility was later sold to a private entity and in most recent years purchased by PSC with the continued permitting for the treatment of non-toxic waste and discharge into the Fulton County sewer system.
Issue: In the summer of 2006, PSC began treating millions of gallons of a toxic substance known as Ethoprop by boiling it in large vats and aerosolizing it into the air (this is not illegal in the state of Georgia - Georgia does not recognize pesticides as a toxic waste). This treatment took over a three-month period to complete with hundreds of people and pets becoming severally ill while this process was being conducted.
Results: The community began to demand answers from local, state and national agencies and public officials. They formed the South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force to advocate on the communities behalf (no agency or public official has ever taken a leadership role in advocating for this community). This group was able to lobby for the shutdown of PSC resulting in Fulton County's non-reissue of the PSC sewer discharge permit in the December of 2006. Since this event, residents remain ill and several have died as a direct link to this poisoning.
Lessons Learned: (a) Laws must change in the state of Georgia recognizing pesticide waste as toxic substance and handled under toxic regulation. At present, many states send their toxins to Georgia to be treated because of the lack of state laws prohibiting this procedure -resulting in 2009 Forbes Magazine naming Atlanta the most toxic city in the nation. (b) Public agencies designed to protect communities lack the necessary community advocate arm of their divisions. A community advocate division must be created to become the bridge between the community and the accessing of public services during a toxic disaster. This arm must be given the right to advocate on the communities behalf without repercussion by the funding entity. The community advocate division must be given immediate funding to help communities organize for their long-term benefit. At present, communities are expected to organize on their own and then apply to become a 501 (c) 3. Once designated as a non-profit, they then have the ability to apply for public agency grants to help their community that has long since passed the crisis.