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KEYCODE BAYER #254
300 residents of north Fayette and south Fulton signed a petition demanding action to remove the oni

August 01/2006 – The Citizen

Plant shut down, but records missing

The source of a sickening onion odor is shut down, at least temporarily. And in a new development, nobody except plant officials has any idea what substances have been treated at the south Fulton plant for at least two years.

Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch late Friday issued an administrative order temporarily suspending the Philip Services Corp. (PSC) waste treatment plant’s permit to treat solid waste.

Meantime, Fayette County has weighed in, demanding the plant be closed for good and tracking illnesses reported by Fayette residents. Fulton county is following suit.

With the shutdown, many questions remain unanswered, including why it has been two years since the PSC plant on Ga. Highway 92 near Fairburn has provided EPD with a list of waste products received at the facility.

Upwards of 250 residents living nearby or downwind of the plant have reported illnesses after smelling the odor of propyl mercaptan, an odorant added to pesticides.

EPD Administrative Order 2075 states that PSC failed to follow waste acceptance requirements detailed in its solid waste handling permit, resulting in a significant impact to the surrounding community.

“Additionally, on July 25, 2006, representatives of EPD inspected the Fairburn facility and discovered violations of state environmental rules and the solid waste handling permit. The extent of your deviation from the requirements of Solid Waste Handling Permit #060-082P(DW) and the magnitude of the subsequent impact to the surrounding communities must be addressed before you receive any additional waste,” the order stated.

The order temporarily suspends the permit and requires PSC to submit a plan to improve waste acceptance procedures to avoid a reoccurrence of events that led to the acceptance of waste containing propyl mercaptan.

The order cites five violations of the solid waste handling permit observed during a July 25 EPD multi-media inspection.

Among those were grease trap waste emanating from the side of a building onto the ground and off the property site, the operation of a 10-day hazardous transfer station at the facility, waste being pumped into a tank prior to being screened and no evidence of annual reports citing the list of waste generators, processes and quantities of the industrial sludges handled.

Commenting on the required reports, EPD Assistant Director Jim Ussery said Monday that PSC had not provided documentation concerning waste products handled at the Fairburn plant for the past two years.

Pursuant to the order, PSC’s solid waste permit is temporarily suspended, meaning that it can no longer receive waste or treat waste already received prior to being served with the order, Ussery said.

The order states that Couch will consider lifting the suspension if PSC responds to EPD’s satisfaction and provides an approved, revised design and operational (d&o) plan that includes effective odor controls, improved waste storage and containment practices, the exclusion of hazardous waste, and improved waste profiling and screening methods.

PSC must remove two holding tanks within 30 days to ensure no residual mercaptan remains on site, submit a plan to clean and decontaminate affected equipment and piping connections within five days and take all necessary measures to prevent mitigation of waste from the waste stabilization pit and solidification bays.

PSC has the option to petition a judge to appeal Couch’s administrative order, according to statements made Wednesday by EPD spokesman Ted Jackson at an intergovernmental/citizens task force meeting set up to address the various symptoms of illness endured by residents across an estimated 40-square-mile area of south Fulton and north Fayette.

Fayette County commissioners July 27 called for the PSC plant to be closed down for good.

“I want it closed permanently. None of the residents in that area should have to put up with this,” Commission Chairman Greg Dunn said.

Commissioners questioned the effect on Fayetteville and Fayette County water supplies coming in part from Whitewater Creek, which runs along the south side of the plant, stating that water should not have to be tested constantly to determine its safety.

Fayette County Emergency Management and fire officials responded in the closing days of June to residents’ complaints of an onion-like smell that some mistook for a gas leak. They tracked the smell to PSC and notified Fulton County.

After a July 19 public meeting called by Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards, Fayette officials added an exposure form to the county Web site for affected residents to document their symptoms and illnesses.

Also in place is an evolving map designed to track complaints of exposure. Complaints of exposure from Fulton residents received by Fayette County will be passed on to Fulton officials.

To date, Fayette officials are continuing the effort to find answers and protect residents, said EM coordinator Pete Nelms.

“We feel very confident about the action that has been taken regarding the closing of the plant and the investigation that is ongoing,” Nelms said. “We are meeting with public health officials in an effort to take the next step to determine the effects on our citizens. There is a lot of activity and dialogue on these issues and we are moving forward to develop a forthcoming plan of action.”

Fulton County commissioners, too, are putting together a response to what some are calling a public health crisis. Commissioner Bill Edwards July 19 called for the plant to be shut down, instructing county attorney O.V. Brantley to find the means to do so.

In a July 28 letter to PSC, Brantley said a June 29 shipment of mercaptan from Bayer Science, Inc. in Axis, Ala., had been improperly opened at the Fairburn facility, causing ill health effects in some residents and resulting in a health hazard during the past month.

The letter advised PSC to “cease all operations until such time as the plant and surrounding areas are cleared of all evidence of mercaptan and its re-opening is authorized by Fulton County.”

In light of the plant’s pre-treatment permit held by Fulton County, Brantley cited five conditions that PSC should meet. Those included periodic sampling, testing and monitoring of air quality in and around the plant; participation by PSC representatives in community meetings and meetings with Fulton County officials; monthly reporting to Fulton County of all substances entering and treated by the plant; periodic sampling, testing and reporting to Fulton County the results of the testing of Whitewater Creek; and an epidemiological study of the impact of mercaptan on the surrounding area.

Brantley also recommended that, at a minimum, PSC should “make available to those citizens with unreimbursed medical expenses a means by which they can obtain relief from your company for the harm which it has caused.”

Such relief may be hampered, PSC Vice President for Environmental Affairs Morris Azose said last week, due to a class action lawsuit filed by some of the affected residents in Fayette and Fulton counties.

Fulton County altered the pre-treatment permit held by PSC effective July 24. That change stated, “As provided by the County’s Sewer Ordinance, PSC obtained a permit in December 2003 from the county to discharge wastewater into the county’s sewer system. That permit limited the amounts of various chemicals and metals that can be discharged into the county’s system. The modification to that permit last week prohibits PSC from receiving onto the property any products that contain n-propyl mercaptan, which is the chemical that causes the smell.”

Preceding Brantley’s letter was one issued July 27 by Fulton County Health and Wellness Director Dr. Steve Katkowsky to EPD Director Couch. Katkowsky declared the mercaptan incident to be a critical health incident due to reports of illness associated with odors escaping from the plant.

“I am requesting that your agency, as the regulating and permitting department of the state, order a full epidemiological study surrounding the operations of the plant, the incidence of the most recent complaints of illness and of the environmental toxicity and possible health effects of prolonged contact with propyl mercaptan. During the completion of that study, and until all of the data are reviewed and evaluated, it is further requested that the plant operations be halted and the plant be closed,” Katkowsky said.

At last count, more than 250 residents of Fayette and Fulton counties have reported being sickened during the past two months from the onion-like odor of pesticide component propyl mercaptan coming from the PSC plant. The true number of those affected is as yet unknown.

A PSC Waste Profile Sheet listed AMVAC Chemical Corp., also located in Axis, Ala., as the product generator for one of the shipments of the controversial “water wash” received at the Fairburn plant. The shipment was listed as containing 99.5 to 99.8 percent water, 0.009 to 0.1 percent propyl mercaptan, 0.09 to 0.1 percent MOCAP pesticide, 12 to 15 percent chloride salts and 0.09 to 0.1 percent ethanol.

EPD’s Ussery said Monday the water wash received at the plant, according to documentation provided, should not have contained levels of either propyl mercaptan or MOCAP sufficient to generate health concerns.

Yet symptoms reported by growing numbers of residents include those of exposure or overexposure to both chemicals as listed on several material safety data sheets on propyl mercaptan.

Symptoms include persistent headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty, kidney damage, the sense of drunkenness or incoherence, burning eyes, skin irritation and rashes. Many residents have now sought medical attention for their symptoms.

Some have reported that healthcare providers have usually been unable, and in some cases unwilling, to believe that symptoms are related to the odor that for weeks was thought to be wild onions growing nearby.

Those symptoms and others have existed in some families since late May, far longer than company documents and EPD can account for.

Multiple tube tests taken by EPD around the plant site found no propyl mercaptan registering at the 0.5 parts per million (ppm) that would pose a health risk.

Nonetheless, residents in a 40-square-mile hot zone are exhibiting symptoms listed on the materials safety data sheet (msds) for exposure to the chemical. One such MSDS lists effects of short term inhalation exposure at 0.5ppm as including irritation, lack of sense of smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, headache, symptoms of drunkenness, bluish skin color, lung congestion, kidney damage, convulsions and coma.

There is no information cited for long-term exposure, a fact particularly troubling to area residents who say they have been breathing the sickening air since the Memorial Day holiday.

Potentially much more troubling are the symptoms of the restricted-use pesticide MOCAP present in extremely small quantities in the wash water received at the PSC plant.
MOCAP, also known chemically as ethoprop, is poisonous if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin, according to material supplied by Bayer Crop Science.

Symptoms of MOCAP poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, excessive salivation, headache, dizziness, weakness, blurring or dimness of vision, loss of muscular coordination, slurring of speech, twitching of muscles, mental confusion, disorientation, drowsiness, difficulty breathing and runny nose.

Ethoprop is an organophosphate sometimes used in pesticides. Organophosphates were first discovered more than 150 years ago, according to Dr. William Fruedenthal at St. Vincent Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine. Their widespread use began in Germany in the 1920s, when these compounds were first synthesized as insecticides and chemical warfare agents. By: Ben Nelms

Croplife, Feb 2005
AMVAC, BAYER TEAM UP

Amvac Chemical Corp. will now market, sell, and distribute Bayer Crop Sciences' Bolster 15G soybean nematicide in its SmartBox system in key Midwest states in 2005.
SmartBox is a closed handling system. The 50-pound returnable container features in-cab push-button insecticide control, monitoring, and recordkeeping.


July 17, 2006 - The Citizen

Residents want answers on onion smell

The onion-like smell of pesticide component Propyl mercaptan coming from the Philip Services Corporation (PSC) waste treatment plant on Ga. Highway 92 just inside Fulton County is not dissipating. Present for weeks and still very evident in the air, the effects of the odor has sickened more than 100 residents in North Fayette and South Fulton counties. The smell has sporadically covered an estimated 200 square miles over a large area of Fayette and portions of south Fulton, Coweta and Clayton counties during the past few weeks. Though permitted by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to handle such industrial waste, the 20 loads of chemical that arrived at the plant between June 21-29 has and is causing a problem, neighbors say. And residents close to the plant in both counties are tired of being ill. They want answers. They want the smell to stop. Yet results from follow-up tests conducted at the plant July 14 showed no detection of Propyl mercaptan at levels that would be considered a health risk.

Residents of north Fayette and South Fulton who were affected by the sickening smell are in no mood for excuses and patronization or being ignored. More than 300 arrived Monday at Bethany United Methodist Church on Lee’s Lake Road to exchange information and sign a petition demanding action. Many of those reported ill effects that curiously coincide with the smell of onions, the very smell caused by Propyl mercaptan. The customary lines that separate counties have been obliterated with the effects of the chemical. A random sampling taken at the impromptu petition location revealed north Fayette and south Fulton residents reporting symptoms that include, nausea, vomiting, headaches, breathing difficulty, burning eyes, pneumonia, scratchy throat, skin irritation, dizziness, diarrhea and increased asthma attacks. Most did not go the a hospital or their own doctors. Most did not make the connection until speaking with others manifesting similar symptoms.

The human side
Indicative of the seriousness of this obvious public health incident affecting a bare minimum of 100 people randomly sampled during the past few days is that of Milam Manor II homeowner Lina Pitts, who lives 200-300 yards southwest of the PSC plant. She and her children have experienced headaches and nausea since the odor began. But for Pitts, the situation is far worse. She moved into her home a year ago and was diagnosed with pleurisy six months ago. Though the condition cleared up, it returned during the first days of July, just weeks after she was diagnosed for the first time in her life with asthma. During a trip to a local healthcare facility a few weeks ago she was told she could be having a reaction from exposure to chemicals.
“I told them I don’t work around chemicals,” Pitts said. Pitts one year-old miniature Maltese began vomiting, scratching itself and experiencing diarrhea after the smell of onions began. The little dog died.

A short distance away, Lee’s Lake Road resident Connie Biemiller is one of many in north Fayette and south Fulton who have been subject to the sporadic but unrelenting odor. It was Biemiller who initiated the petition drive after she and her family experienced intermittent but increased allergy symptoms in past weeks. Passing out petition information at Bethany United Methodist Monday afternoon, Biemiller said taking such action was necessary to fully alert public officials to the continued seriousness of the situation.
“We’re doing this to raise awareness. We’re smelling a toxic chemical and we demand that our elected officials do something about it. Environmental officials checked the plant and gave it the okay, but we’re still sick,” Biemiller said. “We can’t enjoy being in our yards, even though we have a human right to do that.”
More than 300 hundred of Biemiller’s neighbors in north Fayette and south Fulton signed the petition Monday evening. And the list is growing. The petition read:

“WE PETITION OUR GOVERNMENT LEADERS TO PROTECT THE CITIZENS OF SOUTH FULTON AND FAYETTE COUNTIES FROM TOXIC ODORS: We request that toxic odors throughout these counties cease immediately so that no citizen shall suffer physically, mentally or emotionally another day. We demand that these chemicals be purged from the Waste Water Site on Spence Road and that a thorough inspection of our streams and soil content be conducted. We also demand a public meeting held to inform the citizens within 15 days of this petition.”

Just inside Fulton County, a group of 75 residents from Fayette and Fulton met July 10 in the driveway of Pitts’ home off Milam Road to discuss the issues and meet with an attorney. The smell of onions strong in the air, some covered their mouths and noses as attorney Scott Zahler asked about their concerns and fielded questions. “These people have been exposed to something toxic,” Zahler said after the meeting. “Given the timetable of events, our opinion is that it was exposure to mercaptan and we’re going to look into it.”

It was curious that the strong odor, while so evident standing on the driveway that day, could not be detected behind Pitts’ house some 10-20 feet lower in elevation. This defies the explanation offered by environmental officials who say that Propyl mercaptan, being heavier than air, tends to settle to lower lying areas in the absence of significant wind. There was not even the slightest breeze blowing as neighbors met.

Living next door to the plant on Hwy. 92, Tanya Coleman has experienced exploding headaches and nosebleed, she said Monday at the petition site. The continuous effects of the onion smell have not been limited to Coleman and her family. The family’s puppy became very ill after the smell began, she said, with symptoms that included bleeding from the nose and rectum, bloodshot eyes, failure to eat and accompanying weight loss. Her vet explained the puppy had come in contact with a toxic substance, advising her to monitor the puppy’s activities closely. Coleman is one of several area residents, including Biemiller, who have said that their dogs and cats have acted strangely in the past few weeks, some of them refusing to go into the yard. And like Coleman, who went on vacation June 15 and could smell the same odor prior to leaving, more than a dozen residents of both counties say the onion smell was present prior to the first reported shipment of Propyl mercaptan received at PSC on June 21. The unmistakable, strong smell of onions is still present. Coleman awoke at 1:30 AM on July 11, her throat closing in on her from the smell. About 200 yards north of her home, neighbor George Nicholson was awakened at the same time by the stifling odor.

The history of the mystery
Though the heavy onion smell was widely reported June 29 and on subsequent days in Fayette and south Fulton, residents in the affected area had been smelling it for weeks. Those smells were Propyl mercaptan, a component ingredient of a pesticide produced by a Bayer facility in Alabama. Emergency management officials from Fayette and Fulton, EPD and federal Environmental Protection Agency arrived at the PSC facility July 3 in response to complaints in both counties. And though disgusting at least and sickening at worst, EPD Emergency Response Team Program Manager Gary Andrews said July 5 that representatives of his agency and EPA conducted tests at the site July 3. Those tests revealed no measurable presence of Propyl mercaptan even though some investigators on the site could smell the chemical, Andrews said. EPD returned to the PSC plant July 14 to conduct further tests. Andrews said the multiple air samples taken did not register at the level considered to pose a health threat. That level for inhalation exposure is one-half part per million, a much larger level than the 600 parts per trillion that humans are able to detect as an onion-like odor.

Fulton County Emergency Management Agency Duty Officer William Smith said that PSC received shipments of wash water containing a small fraction of Propyl mercaptan beginning June 21. Wash water is produced after the container holding the chemical is empty and the container is washed with water. Containers of wash water were then shipped to PSC for treatment. From June 21 through June 29, the plant received 20 shipments from a Bayer manufacturing plant in Alabama, Smith said. The first 16 shipments were accepted and treated at the PSC facility. The final four shipments, all arriving June 29, were determined by plant operators to be unacceptable. The first container arriving June 29 had been transferred to a PSC tank when the determination was made. The Propyl mercaptan was put back on the truck for return shipment to Alabama. When the other three shipments arrived later in the day, the dome lids were opened and samples taken. All three of those tanks were refused and returned to Bayer. The only known way the chemical could have entered the environment was during those brief occasions were the transfer of one tank was made and the lid on three others was lifted during sampling, Smith and Andrews said. The 16 shipments that arrived between June 21-28, however, were processed throughout the plants wastewater treatment system, Andrews said. That system, he said, is completely self-contained with runoff on plant property being cycled back into the treatment system.

Contacted July 5, PSC General Manager David Chunn said the company has no comment at this time, adding that a statement will be submitted in writing at an unspecified future date.

Andrews said PSC is permitted by EPD to treat solid waste. Though wash water such as that containing Propyl mercaptan came to the facility as a liquid, it and other chemically laden wash water shipments are eventually rendered into a small quantity of solid product during the treatment process. The final solid waste product is transferred to another facility permitted to handle such waste while the final wastewater generated through the treatment process at PSC is deposited into the Fulton County sewer system. PSC is also permitted by Fulton County as a pre-treatment facility. In addition, the plant provides a notification, with no permit required, to transport hazardous waste that can be stored on site for up to 10 days, Andrews said. PSC was cited June 23 with a violation and a $3,500 penalty after EPD staff conducting a routine inspection discovered that a drum of hazardous waste had been stored at the Spence Road plant for 17 days. The drum of hazardous waste had no apparent connection with Propyl mercaptan.

Smith and Andrews said the onion odor should dissipate with time, though it is unknown when that time might be. And though extremely unpleasant and sickening to many, the chemical make-up of Propyl mercaptan itself is partly responsible for the lingering odor. Being heavier than air and not easily broken by sunlight, the chemical tends to hover at ground level, especially in low-lying, shaded areas and creek beds, areas that are usually cooler and damper than open, sunlit areas, Andrews said. Another factor contributing to its prolonged presence are the hot and humid days the area has seen in the recent past, said Smith.

The onion-like odor has been detected by residents in portions of Fairburn, the Union City area, unincorporated southeast Fulton, north Fayette, the Tyrone area throughout much of the central Fayette area and down to Peachtree City, in Sharpsburg, at I-85 in Newnan and at Hartsfield Airport and Clayton County. The reason for such a large coverage area in Fayette was initially attributed to the north-south the prevailing winds experienced during much of last week. Yet that does not explain why such an apparently small amount of Propyl mercaptan vapor could linger so obviously over an area currently estimated at 200 square miles. Nor does it explain why the obvious presence of the chemical can be detected at higher elevations, yet areas 15-20 feet downhill from the same area give no hint of the odor, as was the case at Pitts’ home earlier this week.

The foul smelling Propyl mercaptan is chemically similar to Tertiary Butyl mercaptan (TBM), used as a odorant in natural gas. Information on Propyl mercaptan provided in the Materials Safety Data Sheet states that the strong, objectionable odor may cause nausea, dizziness or headache but is not expected to be harmful if inhaled in small quantities. Propyl mercaptan is a moderately toxic, colorless liquid with a strong, offensive odor that floats on water, according to CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations). It is a chemical intermediate and herbicide and was used as a component of the pesticide MOCAP, produced at Bayer’s Alabama facility.

July 10/2006 - TheCitizen.com

Shipments from Bayer manufacturing plant: Onion smell sickens residents

The smell just won't go away. Several residents in south Fulton and north Fayette counties have become ill and many more disturbed by the strong onion-like odor coming from the Philips Services (PSC) treatment plant on Ga. Highway 92. The odor of pesticide ingredient Propyl mercaptan has permeated parts of those counties during the past three weeks, triggering increasing complaints June 29 when its most recent shipments showed up at the facility. Though the shipment was refused and returned to its Alabama source, its brief exposure to the air is wreaking olfactory havoc with increasing numbers of neighbors and those living within a 50 square mile area of the plant.

Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Emergency Response Team Program Manager Gary Andrews said Wednesday that representatives of his agency and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted tests at the site Monday after receiving complaints about the odor. Those tests revealed no measurable presence of Propyl mercaptan even though some investigators on the site could smell the chemical.

A host of emergency response officials from Fulton and Fayette counties,EPD and EPA visited and re-visited the PSC facility during the past week. Air samples were taken during some of the visits to test for the chemical that many people from Fairburn and Union City and from north Fayette and Tyrone to Peachtree City can smell with no difficulty, an area easily 50 square miles in size.

Fulton County Emergency Management Agency Duty Officer William Andrews said that PSC received shipments of wash water containing a small fraction of Propyl mercaptan beginning June 21. Wash water is produced after the container holding the chemical is empty and the container is washed with water. Containers of wash water were then shipped to PSC for treatment. From June 21 through June 29 the plant received 20 shipments from a Bayer manufacturing plant in Alabama, Andrews said. The first 16 shipments were accepted and treated at the PSC facility. The final four shipments, all arriving June 29, were determined by plant operators to be unacceptable. The first container arriving June 29 had been transferred to a PSC tank when the determination was made. The Propyl mercaptan was put back on the truck for return shipment to Alabama. When the other three shipments arrived later in the day, the dome lids were opened and samples taken. All three of those tanks were refused and returned to Bayer. The only known way the chemical could have entered the environment was during those brief occasions where the transfer of one tank was made and the lid on three others was lifted during sampling, Smith and Andrews said.

Contacted Thursday, PSC General Manager David Chunn said the company has no comment at this time, adding that a statement will be submitted in writing at a future date.

Smith said Thursday an investigation revealed that nothing was released into the environment and that no violation had occurred. He said EPA took 18 air samples around the plant property and within a three mile radius of it. Instrumentation was set for a health-effect level, Smith said. None of those samples came in at the level. The same was true for samples taken by EPD. The health-effect threshold of Propyl mercaptan is one-half part per million. In contrast, the average person can detect the strong smell of the chemical at 600 parts per trillion. That vast difference appears to explain why so many people have smelled the disgusting odor, but relatively few of the tens of thousands in the affected area of South Fulton and north, central and west Fayette have experienced some degree of illness.

But there are those who have become sickened from the smell. Though reliable numbers are difficult to determine, it is known that some individuals and families have experienced various symptoms. Tyrone resident Sheryl Meyers has worn a mask at work at her job near the plant in South Fulton. Meyers has experienced nausea and vomiting and reported that the smell had been present for two to three weeks, the time frame that coincides with the first shipments of Propyl mercaptan to arrive at PSC in the third week of June. Just south of the plant location in northern Fayette, Connie Biemiller and her family have experienced intermittent but increased allergy symptoms during the same period. Other residents in South Fulton and Fayette have reported nausea, headaches and vomiting and Fairburn EMS transported one person to an area hospital with symptoms apparently related to having inhaled Propyl mercaptan. Piedmont Fayette Hospital saw approximately one-half dozen people with complaints of nausea or respiratory complaints. None were admitted.

Smith and Andrews said the odor should dissipate with time, though it is unknown when that time might be. And though extremely unpleasant and sickening to some, the chemical make-up of Propyl mercaptan is partly responsible for the lingering odor. Being heavier than air and not easily broken by sunlight, the chemical tends to hover at ground level, especially in low-lying, shaded areas and creek beds, areas that are usually cooler and damper than open, sunlit areas, Andrews said. Another factor contributing to its prolonged presence are the hot and humid days the area has seen in the recent past, said Smith. The onion-like odor has been detected by residents in portions of Fairburn, the Union City area, unincorporated southeast Fulton, north Fayette, the Tyrone area, throughout much of the central Fayette area and down to Peachtree City. The reason for such a large coverage area in Fayette is that the prevailing winds during the past several days has been predominantly from the north, said Fayette County EMA Coordinator Pete Nelms. PSC is located at on the extreme south side of Fulton on Hwy. 92, approximately one mile from the Fayette line. Given all those factors, it is still unexplained why such an apparently small amount of Propyl mercaptan vapor could linger for so obviously over a growing area currently estimated at 50 square miles.

The foul smelling Propyl mercaptan is chemically similar to Tertiary Butyl mercaptan (TBM), used as a odorant in natural gas. Information on Propyl mercaptan provided in the Materials Safety Data Sheet states that the strong, objectionable odor may cause nausea, dizziness or headache but is not expected to be harmful if inhaled in small quantities. Propyl mercaptan is a moderately toxic, colorless liquid with a strong, offensive odor that floats on water, according to CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations). It is a chemical intermediate and herbicide and was used as a component of the pesticide MOCAP, produced at Bayer's Alabama facility.

Smith recommended that residents detecting onion-like smell of Propyl mercaptan take the following precautions:
• Open your windows during the day and allow the air to circulate through the house.
• Remove your air filter and leave it out. If you have dirt and dust on the filter, the odor may have saturated on the filter. Replace the filter when the odor subsides.
• Leave the A/C on and turn on fans to help move the air in the house.
• At night, close the windows and doors and avoid being outside.
• If there is a thunderstorm, open your windows to allow the fresh air from the storm to help circulate the air in your house. Please take appropriate precautions to avoid any dangerous lightning and also getting water in your house.
• If you feel like you need medical attention, you must see your doctor or whomever you would normally see for any ailment.

In a related incident Thursday morning, nearby PSC neighbor George Nicholson came close to being arrested after attempting to take photographs at the facility. Nicholson said he and many of his neighbors had been smelling the very strong odor from the plant for three weeks and some of those neighbors had become ill. Living approximately one-half mile from the facility, Nicholson and others wanted answers that had not been forthcoming. Nicholson said he had driven onto the plant property to take photos, then drove across Hwy. 92 and parked in the driveway of a vacant house. From there, he established an observation point. Nicholson said a short time later a vehicle pulled up along the highway in front of his car. A man who did not identify himself got out and made several demands, Nicholson said.

"He demanded to know who I was and what I wanted," Nicholson said. "He demanded that he get any pictures and he reached inside my vehicle to try to get the camera, but I moved it away from him. Then he said he would call the police."

Fulton County Police responded at the scene, temporarily taking Nicholson's driver's license and informing him that he might be arrested. The property was not posted for trespassing. The incident ended when two men from the plant came over to Nicholson, informing him that he would be trespassing if he entered PSC property again. Nicholson said he acknowledged their remarks. Nicholson and the police left the scene. There was no response by PSC relating to the incident. PSC had already declined any comment.

Tue, 07/11/2006 , The Citizen.com

Mystery odor sickens many

The onion-like smell of pesticide component Propyl mercaptan coming from the Philip Services Corporation waste treatment plant on Ga. Highway 92 just inside Fulton County does not seem to be dissipating.
Very evident in the air Monday, the effects of the odor has affected more than 100 residents in north Fayette and south Fulton while the smell has sporadically covered an estimated 200 square miles over a large area of Fayette and portions of south Fulton, Coweta and Clayton counties during the past three weeks.
Six persons came to Piedmont Fayette Hospital in Fayetteville for treatment after smelling the onion odor, while one Fairburn resident was carried by ambulance to an area hospital. Many others were reported to have become ill but sought no hospitalization.
Though permitted by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to handle such industrial waste, the plant received 20 truckloads of chemicals between June 21-29, some of which is suspected of causing the odorous problem.
Dozens of residents close to the plant in both counties say they are tired of being ill and want answers. They want the smell to stop.
More than 300 arrived Monday at Bethany United Methodist Church on Lee’s Lake Road to exchange information and sign a petition demanding action. Many of those reported ill effects curiously coincide with the smell of onions, the very smell caused by Propyl mercaptan.
The map lines that separate counties have been obliterated with the effects of the chemical.
A random sampling taken at the impromptu petition location revealed north Fayette and south Fulton residents reporting symptoms that include, nausea, vomiting, headaches, breathing difficulty, burning eyes, pneumonia, scratchy throat, skin irritation, dizziness, diarrhea and increased asthma attacks.
Most did not go the a hospital or their own doctors. Most did not make the connection until speaking with others manifesting similar symptoms.
Lee’s Lake Road resident Connie Biemiller is one of many in north Fayette and south Fulton who have been subject to the sporadic but unrelenting odor. It was Biemiller who initiated the petition drive after she and her family experienced intermittent but increased allergy symptoms in past weeks.
Passing out petition information at Bethany United Methodist Monday afternoon, Biemiller said taking such action was necessary to fully alert public officials to the continued seriousness of the situation.
“We’re doing this to raise awareness. We’re smelling a toxic chemical and we demand that our elected officials do something about it. Environmental officials checked the plant and gave it the okay, but we’re still sick,” Biemiller said. “We can’t enjoy being in our yards, even though we have a human right to do that.”
More than 300 hundred of Biemiller’s neighbors in north Fayette and south Fulton signed the petition Monday evening. And the list is growing. The petition read:
“We petition our government leaders to protect the citizens of south Fulton and Fayette counties from toxic odors:We request that toxic odors throughout these counties cease immediately so that no citizen shall suffer physically, mentally or emotionally another day. We demand that these chemicals be purged from the Waste Water Site on Spence Road and that a thorough inspection of our streams and soil content be conducted. We also demand a public meeting held to inform the citizens within 15 days of this petition.”
Living next door to the plant on Hwy. 92, Tanya Coleman has experienced painful headaches and nosebleed, she said Monday at the petition site. The effects of the onion smell were not limited to Coleman and her family. The family’s puppy became very ill after the smell began, she said, with symptoms that included bleeding from the nose and rectum, bloodshot eyes, failure to eat and accompanying weight loss.
Her vet explained the puppy had come in contact with a toxic substance, advising her to monitor the puppy’s activities closely.
Coleman is one of several area residents, including Biemiller, who have said that their dogs and cats have acted strangely in the past few weeks, some of them refusing to go into the yard. Two dogs reportedly died during that time period.
And like Coleman, several residents of both counties say the onion smell was present prior to the first reported shipment of Propyl mercaptan received at PSC on June 21.

Though the heavy onion smell was widely reported June 29 and on subsequent days in Fayette and south Fulton, residents in north Fayette and south Fulton had been smelling it for weeks.
Those smells were linked to Propyl mercaptan, a component ingredient of a pesticide produced by a Bayer chemical facility in Alabama. Emergency management officials from Fayette and Fulton, EPD and federal Environmental Protection Agency arrived at the PSC facility July 3 in response to complaints in both counties.
EPD Emergency Response Team Program Manager Gary Andrews said July 5 that representatives of his agency and EPA conducted tests at the site July 3. Those tests revealed no measurable presence of Propyl mercaptan even though some investigators on the site could smell the chemical, Andrews said.
Fulton County Emergency Management Agency Duty Officer William Smith said that PSC received shipments of wash water containing a small fraction of Propyl mercaptan beginning June 21.
Wash water is produced after the container holding the chemical is empty and the container is washed with water. Containers of wash water were then shipped to PSC for treatment.
From June 21 through June 29, the plant received 20 shipments from a Bayer manufacturing plant in Alabama, Smith said. The first 16 shipments were accepted and treated at the PSC facility. The final four shipments, all arriving June 29, were determined by plant operators to be unacceptable.
The first container arriving June 29 had been transferred to a PSC tank when the determination was made. The Propyl mercaptan was put back on the truck for return shipment to Alabama. When the other three shipments arrived later in the day, the dome lids were opened and samples taken. All three of those tanks were refused and returned to Bayer.
The only known way the chemical could have entered the environment was during those brief occasions were the transfer of one tank was made and the lid on three others was lifted during sampling, Smith and Andrews said.
The 16 shipments that arrived between June 21-28, however, were processed throughout the plant’s wastewater treatment system, Andrews said. That system, he said, it completely self-contained with runoff on plant property being cycled back into the treatment system.
Contacted July 5, PSC General Manager David Chunn said the company has no comment at this time, adding that a statement will be submitted in writing at an unspecified future date.
Andrews said PSC is permitted by EPD to treat solid waste. Though wash water such as that containing Propyl mercaptan came to the facility as a liquid, it and other chemically laden wash water shipments are eventually rendered into a small quantity of solid product during the treatment process.
The final solid waste product is transferred to another facility permitted to handle such waste while the final wastewater generated through the treatment process at PSC is deposited into the Fulton County sewer system.
PSC is also permitted by Fulton County as a pre-treatment facility. In addition, the plant provides a notification, with no permit required, to transport hazardous waste that can be stored on site for up to 10 days, Andrews said.
PSC was cited June 23 with a violation and a $3,500 penalty after EPD staff conducting a routine inspection discovered that a drum of hazardous waste had been stored at the Spence Road plant for 17 days. The drum of hazardous waste had no apparent connection with Propyl mercaptan.
Smith and Andrews said the onion odor should dissipate with time, though it is unknown when that time might be.
And though extremely unpleasant and sickening to many, the chemical make-up of Propyl mercaptan itself is partly responsible for the lingering odor.
Being heavier than air and not easily broken down by sunlight, the chemical tends to hover at ground level, especially in low-lying, shaded areas and creek beds, areas that are usually cooler and damper than open, sunlit areas, Andrews said.
Another factor contributing to its prolonged presence are the hot and humid days the area has seen in the recent past, said Smith.
The onion-like odor has been detected by residents in portions of Fairburn, the Union City area, unincorporated southeast Fulton, north Fayette, the Tyrone area throughout much of the central Fayette area and down to Peachtree City, in Sharpsburg, at I-85 in Newnan and at Hartsfield Airport and Clayton County.
The reason for such a large coverage area in Fayette was initially attributed to the north-south prevailing winds experienced during much of last week.
Yet that does not explain why such an apparently small amount of Propyl mercaptan vapor could linger so obviously over a growing area currently estimated at 200 square miles.
Nor does it explain why the obvious presence of the chemical can be detected at higher elevations, yet areas 15-20 feet downhill from the same area give no hint of the odor.
Just inside Fulton County Monday evening a group of 75 residents from Fayette and Fulton met at a home off Milam Road. The smell of onions strong in the air, some covered their mouths and noses as attorney Scott Zahler asked about their concerns and fielded questions.
“These people have been exposed to something toxic,” Zahler said after the meeting. “Given the timetable of events, our opinion is that it was exposure to mercaptan, and we’re going to look into it.”
The foul smelling Propyl mercaptan is chemically similar to Tertiary Butyl mercaptan (TBM), used as the smelly factor added to otherwise odorless natural gas.
Information on Propyl mercaptan provided in the Materials Safety Data Sheet states that the strong, objectionable odor may cause nausea, dizziness or headache but is not expected to be harmful if inhaled in small quantities.
Propyl mercaptan is a moderately toxic, colorless liquid with a strong, offensive odor that floats on water, according to CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations). It is a chemical intermediate and herbicide and was used as a component of the pesticide MOCAP, produced at Bayer’s Alabama facility.

The Citizen, July 24/2006

Mercaptan public meeting

They came for an answer and they got it. Now they are waiting to see the results. And for furious and fearful residents of unincorporated south Fulton, Fairburn, Union City, Tyrone and north Fayette County exposed and sickened for weeks by the onion-like smell of pesticide component Propyl mercaptan, the words of Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards will long be remembered.
“My goal is simply this. Since there is no answer and nobody knows anything, then let’s shut the plant down until we find some answers,” Edwards said. “This stuff is serious.”
That was Edwards’ bottom line Wednesday night over the continuing problems with the persistent and obnoxious onion smell of Propyl mercaptan coming from the Philip Services Corp. waste treatment plant on Ga. Highway 92 just inside Fulton County. The smell has sickened many, residents say. Meanwhile, company representatives at the meeting were apologetic but but left residents dissatisfied.
The sanctuary at Bethany United Methodist Church in north Fayette was overflowing with nearly 400 residents of Fayette and Fulton counties who came to express their outrage and demand answers to the smell that has permeated their communities and their homes for the past several weeks. By meeting time, nearly 800 residents of both counties had signed a petition demanding action. Nearly 230 residents of unincorporated south Fulton, Fairburn, Union City, Tyrone, unincorporated north Fayette and have complained of a variety of health concerns and illnesses during past weeks. Perhaps more significant than originally thought by public officials, a growing number of residents are seeking medical attention for their families, even their pets, as the lingering onion smell refuses to dissipate and health symptoms mount. Several residents reported that their dogs had died since the odor began.
Attending the meeting were Edwards, Commissioner Rob Pitts and an entourage of other Fulton County officials, Rep. Virgil Fludd, a representative for Congressman David Scott, Fayette County commissioners Linda Wells, Herb Frady and Robert Horgan, Fayette County fire, emergency management and health officials, members of Tyrone City Council and city staff, representatives from Georgia Environmental Protection Division, federal Environmental Protection Agency, an elected official from Palmetto and representatives from Philip Services Corp.
“I’ve listened to everything and to what people from different counties have said. The thing that Fayette County said that is key and important is that when they went out there to investigate the odor, the odor did come from the plant,” Edwards said, referring to statements made minutes earlier by Fayette County Fire and Emergency Services Director Jack Krakeel on the county’s successful attempt to pinpoint the source of the odor after receiving complaints from residents. “That’s an important piece of information.”
Edwards laid out the first two measures for Fulton County to address immediately. Those involve declaring a critical health status for the affected area and charging the county attorney with finding a way to require the plant to cease operations until the problems affecting residents have been identified.
“What I want to do is tell you this. We are going to tell (Fulton Department of Health & Wellness Director) Dr. Katkowsky that Fulton County wants to raise this level to critical. That’s the first thing. And I want the county attorney to instruct the county as to what we can do to (have the plant) cease operations until we do know what the problem is.”
Responding later to questions about the definition of a “critical” health level, Katkowsky said a critical level is one where people are suffering health effects where immediate action is needed.
Edwards continued his plan to address residents health problems, saying that he would contact Rep. David Scott to assist him from the federal level to achieve the goals.
“As I look at this whole issue, and at PSC and the millions of dollars of fines and I’ve got people getting sick but I’m not getting any answers and I’m not getting any solutions, so the only way we can do it, in my mind as an elected official, is to find a way to cease activities until we get some answers to our questions,” Edwards said.
Finally, Edwards said he would form an intergovernmental task force made up of representatives from Fayette and Fulton counties and citizens.
“We need to monitor this place every day. And I want Fulton County in there if we’ve got to be in there 24/7 to monitor this place each and every day,” Edwards said emphatically. “I promise you that we will be in this place until we can find some resolution. The intergovernmental task force can meet, all of us, so we can make sure that we don’t leave here tonight saying cute things without something happening. We want (the citizens) at the table with us so that we can continue to monitor this until it is resolved.”
During the meeting, PSC Vice President for Environmental Affairs Morris Azose was met with suspicion and sporadic outcries as he addressed some of the concerns voiced by residents. He apologized for the persistent smell of mercaptan in the affected communities.
“It is very clear that we had a problem,” Azose said. “We apologize for this incident.”
Azose said 38 shipments at 5,000 gallons each of wash water containing Propyl mercaptan had been accepted and treated at the facility from June 20-27. Those shipments have been processed. Shipments arriving June 28 were rejected by the plant, he said.
Many at the meeting were unimpressed. That sentiment continued with Azose’ remarks about setting up additional monitoring stations, welcoming residents to visit the facility and working with Rep. Fludd in his attempt to identify those residents that had sought medical attention they believe was related to the onion-like smell of Propyl mercaptan. Fludd had said earlier that people that had sought medical attention should not have to fully bear those costs. He passed out a sign up list for those who had paid for medical attention related to the onion smell of Propyl mercaptan.
Azose drew more fire than usual from angry residents when, responding to a question about trees on plant property being hosed with water, he initially said that such activity had not been occurred. Azose was apparently unaware that the current edition of The Citizen showed a photograph of a truck on plant property, in fact, spraying trees. As with other portions of his remarks, residents said they found inconsistencies.
Edwards ended the meeting, attempting to reassure skeptical residents that their issues were being taken seriously, saying that he, too, took it seriously. The seriousness of the issue is one shared by Rep. Virgil Fludd, Rep. David Scott and Fulton Commissioner Rob Pitts, he said.
“If they did not take it serious they wouldn’t be here,” Edwards said. “Cause I ain’t smelling nothing where I live. Alright? So I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t take it seriously. We took a vow to serve you and protect you. And one way to protect is with any environmental hazard or environmental stressors that may have an effect your quality of life.”