A joint study by the University of Georgia and Northeast Georgia Health District found no abnormal rate of cancer among those living in close proximity to a controversial Madison County pipeline booster station.
However, residents of that area remain very skeptical.
A survey of residents living in a one-mile radius of Williams Transco substation no. 130 revealed 13 cases of cancer in 97 residents studied in 38 households. That’s not an abnormal percentage compared to the rest of the state, according to the public health department.
“An analysis of cancer in this zip code by the state cancer registry showed no unusual cancer levels,” according to the report, which was presented last Wednesday to about 25 people at the Madison County Library.
But those living under Transco’s operation point to the 185 tons of formaldehyde emitted yearly by the booster station as well as 1,152 tons of carbon monoxide and 4,156 of nitrogen oxides.
There is no regulation on the amount of formaldehyde the station can release year each.
Concerns over these emissions spawned the group COPS (Citizens Organized for Pipeline Safety) which has pushed for tighter restrictions of Transco’s booster station.
They’ve also pushed for health surveys of the area in which Transco operates.
Health officials first conducted a telephone survey in 2006, finding few cancer cases. This second study, conducted through two months worth of door-to-door surveys, didn’t reveal enough cases to implicate the booster station. Furthermore, 50 percent of residents surveyed in the study smoked, which further brought into question a link between booster emissions and cancer.
The survey took into account health factors such as outdoor activity, red meat consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, drinking water, body mass index and whether the residents smoked or were exposed to second-hand smoke.
Of the 13 cancer cases reported, skin cancer was the most common at 46 percent. Other cancers found were breast, prostate, thyroid, bladder, cervical and leukemia.
Since funding and personnel were limited, only a one-mile radius was studied. And only thirty-eight of the 59 households in the one-mile radius could be contacted for the study, which made the sample size smaller.
The report’s findings will be turned over to the chemical hazards division of the public health department.
“They might decide there’s nothing else to do or they might do some other things,” said Dr. Lou Kudon of the Northeast Georgia Health District.
The recent discussion of Transco prompted a response from the company.
“We believe it is wrong for anyone to blindly assert that our compressor facility in Comer, Ga., is responsible for any abnormal health issues without any evidence to support that claim,” Williams Transco pipeline spokesperson Chris Stockton wrote in an email to The Journal.
Stockton added that the compressor facility has operated safely for many years, meeting all federal and state air emissions regulations. He also noted that a second health survey in as many years did not find any abnormal health issues within one mile of the facility.
“In addition, it is important to note that our employee population at the Comer facility has not experienced abnormal health issues,” Stockton said.
But those attending the meeting were still very much concerned that the emissions are affecting people’s health
McElheney urged the public to continue to be vigilant.
“We do have a community organization called COPS …,” she said. “Call us and we’ll talk your ear off. It is a major problem, even if they couldn’t determine it.”