The Georgia Environmental Protection Division will likely approve Louisiana Pacific's request to increase formaldehyde emissions at its Center plant in Jackson County.
Participants in a public hearing In Nicholson last Thursday asked, encouraged and begged the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to decline LP's request to quadruple the emissions of formaldehyde. They claimed the current emissions are a health hazard.
In spite of repeated assertions by James Capp, manager of the EPD's Stationary Source Permitting Program, that the EPD would consider all of the comments made in the Nicholson Civic Center on a rainy Wednesday night, the consensus appeared to be that granting the permit "is a done deal," as more than one participant suggested.
"Both the Georgia Air Quality Act (Act) and the Georgia Rules for Air Quality Control (Rules) require EPD to issue a permit upon a determination that the facility can reasonably be expected to comply with the Act and the Rules," Capp said in an e-mail response to an e-mail inquiry. "So, it would take comments that were persuasive that the proposal does not comply with the Act or the Rules."
No such evidence was offered at the hearing.
LP wants increased limits to avoid further violations, said Mike Anderson, LP's environmental manager, who said the plant does not actually plan to increase emissions.
The permit request would change allowable emissions of formaldehyde from LP's dryer to go from .438 pounds per hour to 2.45 pounds per hour, and an increase from its board press from .51 pounds per hour to 1.02 pounds per hour.
At the maximum, Capp said, those emissions would generate a ground level concentration of formaldehyde in the air amounting to only 14.3 percent of what is known as the "acceptable ambient concentration."
A number of speakers suggested that emissions from LP are linked to illness in the community.
One was Madison County Commissioner Stanley Thomas, who complained that "Madison County seems to be getting all of the bad air and health issues." He asked the EPD to deny LP's request "for the health and safety of the people of our county."
"Remember our names," urged Steve Arnold of Madison County, referring to himself and his wife, Brenda. "You may see them in the obituaries one day and you'll remember this meeting."
Pat Armour, who lives off Nowhere Trail astraddle the Jackson-Madison county line, reported sinus infections throughout her family that she blames on LP emissions.
"We are begging," she pleaded. "Please, please reconsider. Have them come into compliance instead of us having to deal with what we are now."
The EPD will continue to take public comment through 5:00 Thursday, May 22.