Citizens Organized for Pipeline Safety (COPS) met with a state official Thursday who will lead an investigation into whether pollution from the Transco booster station in Comer is harming county residents.
Jane Perry, Director of the Chemical Hazards Program of Georgia Public Health in Atlanta, asked COPS members to speak of their concerns about Transco.
“I want to know what you all want me to do,” said Perry. “What are your concerns and what do you want us to do?”
COPS members said that a recent health survey in a one-mile radius of the Transco booster station did not extend far enough. They asked that the radius be expanded in the upcoming survey.
“I think three miles would be a lot better,” said COPS leader Jill McElheney.
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.
Chris Stockton, spokesperson for Transco, sent an email to The Journal prior to Thursday’s meeting stating that there is no evidence that the company is harming area residents.
“For the record, we intend to fully cooperate with the state’s health assessment,” said Stockton. “However, we believe it is important to emphasize that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the emissions from our facility are the cause of any negative health issues. This will be the third assessment conducted since the summer of 2006. We are confident that, like the first two assessments conducted by the Northeast Health District, the state will conclude that our Comer compressor facility is not the source of any abnormal health issues.”
At one point in Thursday’s meeting, Perry told COPS that they currently “don’t have any evidence that there’s an immediate health hazard” from Transco. However, she added that she is concerned about claims of 41 cancer cases in the Transco area.
She asked for the group’s help in collecting health data in the area, noting that health surveys could be dropped off at schools and fire stations and published in local papers.
“It’s important that we have the community involved from the beginning,” said Perry. “I’m not going to say we will have conclusive cause and effect, but we can compile information into a succinct report.”
She commended the group for meeting monthly and said that Georgia needs “more Jills, more COPS.” She said she has “a passion for the activist side of environmentalism.”
McElheney emailed Perry after the meeting, noting that government agencies have repeatedly failed to answer the call for the Transco area.
“This is the collective hope of the residents: to stop the chronic chemical trespassing of involuntary exposures in this community from known sources,” wrote McElheney. “None of the state and federal agencies participating in this PHA have ever declared a problem exists with 5,000 tons of greenhouse gases being emitted into Madison County. The regulatory incongruence on this law is that this degradation from combustion emissions are illegal in many other areas of the country, but acceptable to burden the people in Madison County by Transco. That is why the authority exists within the regulatory agency to protect communities like Transco.”
McElheney voiced skepticism regarding the effectiveness of the study.
“When EPA/Washington briefs you on the historical noncompliance of Transco in relation to their current emissions, EPA Region IV and GA EPD can then assist you in an authorized plan of action to remedy the situation and meet the collective hope of the community,” wrote McElheney. “This may save you time, trouble, and expended energy in a report that has proven over and over again to be inconclusive by design. The growing chasm between politically manipulated agencies and the public trust will only widen if citizens once again feel exploited.”
Stockton took issue with recent media coverage of Transco. He noted a recent Journal article that pointed out that Transco is on the Georgia Hazardous Site Inventory due the presence of PCBs.
“This is true,” wrote Stockton. “But the article stops short of reporting that (1) Transco used PCBs prior to the knowledge of the hazards of these chemicals, (2) once the hazards were known, we took the initiative to eliminate the sources, test, self report, and clean up the facility at a total cost of over $8 million, and (3) all of our PCB activities have been deemed by state and federal agencies to be in compliance with applicable regulations and cleanup standards.”
The company spokesman said Transco should not be the focus of health allegations, minus hard evidence.
“We believe it is wrong for anyone to blindly assert that our operations responsible for any abnormal health issues without any evidence to support that claim,” said Stockton. “Our compressor facility has operated safely for many years, meeting all federal and state environmental regulations. In addition, it is important to note that our employee population at the Comer facility has not experienced abnormal health issues.”