Greensboro, GA Ecological Disaster – SJ Environmental Justice

In Greensboro, Georgia, a group of specialists, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hit a water main while rating a hazardous 19th-century cotton mill site. The sediment sent harmful chemicals down to Lake Oconee and next to the Oconee River. The EPA had actually denied, but later admitted, that it moneyed the clean-up and also development task that triggered the disaster.

Though that accident happened in the earlier months of 2015, heavy rains that come into the Greensboro, GA area simply continue to send more dirt into the creek. Up until this time, the EPA has actually been able to avoid any major criticism for this harmful waste spill, even though it is still reeling from the disaster it produced at a Colorado gold mine.

Lead in the soil at the job site is 20,000 times above federal levels set up for drinking water, claimed microbiologist Dave Lewis, who was a top-level scientist during his 31 years at the EPA. He ended up being a whistleblower, critical of EPA techniques. Now Lewis works for Focus for Health, a non-profit that looks into disease triggers.

The goal of the EPA project was to create low-income housing. A grant was released around 2005 to turn the mill, as well as the surrounding grounds, into housing for the homeless and mentally ill. Professionals dealing with the Georgia Environmental management Division (GEPD) had begun excavating and tearing down the buildings– regardless of objections by the city of Greensboro and not having a solid plan on how to handle the hazardous waste.

The mill site has 34 dangerous chemicals, 30 of which are on the EPA’s checklist of top priority contaminants because of “high toxicity, perseverance, inadequate of degradability, and also damaging effects on living organisms,” Lewis created.

The Mill

The four-acre site contains the deserted Mary Leila Cotton Mill, which created sheeting until the early part of 2000. This hardwood floor structure, which was over 130,000 square feet, was covered in flaky, lead-based paint. This hazardous paint engulfed the grounds, along with ash produced by its coal-burning generators. High degrees of cancer-causing chemicals, such as benzopyrene, are also concealed there. Moreover, neighboring farmers discarded chemicals in the deserted area at a time when arsenic was utilized to kill insects.

Official documents, evaluated by a number of environmental groups, reveal proposals to move the dirt to other areas or cover it with concrete. The government agencies promised to keep track of and repair any potholes or cracks. But according to Lewis, any excavation would certainly send out big amounts of poisonous dirt right into the creek.

In spite of the man-made contaminants, the ground has actually held its own against more degradation. The hazardous soil was mainly constrained to densely-packed reduced levels held in check by a clay barrier. EPA/GEPD contractors destroyed that barrier with a backhoe. According to Lewis, this is what caused pollutants to flow freely.

The EPA hasn’t responded to any requests for comment. The firm has given clashing statements regarding its participation in the project, going from being familiar with absolutely nothing and then finally admitting that it paid for the cleanup and expansion through a grant.

Even Lewis claimed his previous employer (EPA), never ever revealed any kind of concern in a number of responses to his ongoing pleas regarding environmental problems around the old mill. In letters to Lewis and David Kopp, who represented the citizens in their litigation, the EPA downplayed poisoning the Greensboro, GA area creek, pointing to low levels collected in 2010 samples taken.

Lewis says he examined his very own examples at the College of Georgia, where he use to work as a marine biologist. The findings startled him. However, when he informed the EPA, it claimed it wasn’t aware of the situation at the mill.

“There is no government agency involved with any project at the mill property,” EPA Regional Supervisor Heather McTeer Toney wrote Lewis on Jan. 9. Five months later, in a May 28 letter to Lewis, Toney confessed the program was an “EPA brownfields grant-funded job” and that “remediation was needed to be carried out in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.” The state directed the developer to preserve the mill property in a fashion that protects people from exposure to unsafe contaminants, while the property is undergoing corrective action.

The EPA’s site claims brownfields jobs are part of the firm’s requirement in making environmental justice an integral part of every program and policy by applying EPA’s regulatory tools to safeguard at-risk areas.