State officials have agreed to turn the magnifying glass on the Williams Transco booster station in Comer to see if pollution from the company is affecting Madison County residents.
Belan Moran, a spokesperson for the state Division of Public Health, said a study of Transco was scheduled to begin Oct. 1 and is “expected to last four months.” She said she expects the CHP (Chemical Hazards Program) to have an “After Action Report” early next year.
“We will assess whether there are existing and/or potential human exposure pathways to the environmental pollution and if the contaminants found in the environment are at levels of health concern,” said Moran.
The spokesperson said the study was initiated for three reasons: 1.) concern by some residents about health effects from exposure to chemicals found in on-site soil and in groundwater, and emitted to air; 2.) a known release of a regulated substance has occurred and environmental sampling data exist and can be evaluated; 3.) a private well was reported to have an elevated level of arsenic.
Moran said staff from several state agencies will participate in the study, including the CHP, the Division of Public Health, the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and the Environmental Protection Division.
The Transco booster station emits tons of toxins into the air each year, including 1,152 tons of carbon monoxide, 4,156 tons of nitrogen oxides and 185.3 tons of formaldehyde, according to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
The Transco station is also included on the state Hazardous Site Inventory due to soil contamination by Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Citizens Organized for Pipeline Safety (COPS) in Madison County has long called for more attention to pipeline safety matters in the county. They say that too many government agencies have turned a deaf ear to health concerns of those who live in close proximity to pipelines. And they consistently voice outrage over the lack of regulations on pipeline companies, such as the government’s failure to set a cap on toxic emissions, such as formaldehyde.
After COPS pushed for a study of the Transco area, the Northeast Public Health District conducted a survey of cancer cases around the booster station. The study did not reveal an abnormal number of cancer cases in the area, revealing 13 cases of cancer in 97 residents studied in 38 households.
Moran said the new study “may or may not” include the study by the Northeast Health District.
Transco officials say the company is committed to safety.
“…We are currently in compliance with federal and state air quality regulations, including, but not limited to, the federal New Source Performance Standards ‘Standards of Performance for Stationary Spark Ignition Internal Combustion Engines,’ the New Source Performance Standards “Standards of Performance for Stationary Gas Turbines, the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Stationary Combustion Turbines, and the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines,” said Chris Stockton, spokesman for Transco.
Stockton added that there has been no evidence that Transco has caused any harm to Madison County residents.
“Regarding the health concerns that have been expressed, the Northeast Health District found nothing to suggest that our Comer compressor facility has ever caused or is causing any abnormal health issues,” said Stockton. “This assessment was not surprising to us. The health and safety or our employees and neighbors is very important to Williams, and we hope that the research conducted by the Northeast Health District will help lessen potential concerns.”