In 2006 hundreds of illnesses were reported after residents of Fayette and south Fulton counties breathed an onion-like smell of chemical odorant propyl mercaptan and organophosphate pesticide Mocap. Two related deaths are reported. The Mocap wash water came from Bayer Cropscience in Axis, Alabama. Now a $4 million settlement was reached.
January 3, 2009 - The Citizen
PSC lawsuit claim period extended
The judge in the out-of-court settlement of a $4 million class-action lawsuit over illnesses to north Fayette and south Fulton residents caused by emissions at the Phillips Services Corp. (PSC) waste treatment plant in mid-2006 has extended the deadline for those residents to file claims. The new deadline is Jan. 30.
"The mailings went out to 2,340 households and the response rate as of Dec. 30 was 431, which is obviously very low," said class-action lead attorney Scott Zahler. "I assume many people may have disregarded the mailer, especially considering it came during the election mail onslaught and the holiday season."
The settlement covers a geographical area with an approximate 3-mile radius from the plant location on Ga. Highway 92 in south Fulton. The plant borders Whitewater Creek and is less than a mile from the Fayette County line.
Zahler asked that anyone living within the area that resided there during the exposure period and has not submitted a claim form contact his office at (770) 431-1107. Zahler noted that accepting a monetary settlement effectively prohibits any future litigation on the part of affected residents. Zahler also noted that any money not paid to affected residents will be returned to the defendants, PSC and American Vanguard Corp. (AMVAC). Pesticide maker, Bayer CropScience, was not named as a defendant in the litigation.
Nearly 800 residents of Fayette and Fulton completed exposure forms noting a variety of symptoms and illnesses in the weeks and months following the exposure in the community to a shipment of "wash water" containing the organophosphate pesticide ethoprop and the chemical odorant Propyl mercaptan.
The symptoms experienced by those residents were consistent with those of chronic and/or acute exposure to ethoprop and mercaptan, according the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for those chemicals.
The thick "onion odor" permeated the communities of north and central Fayette and south Fulton throughout mid-2006, an area initially identified as a 40 square-mile "hot zone" by The Citizen and confirmed by Fayette County Emergency Management.
Area residents early in the exposure period, led by north Fayette resident Connie Biemiller, organized the South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force. They held frequent meetings, even while ill themselves, and successfully pressed the issue of the illnesses developing among their neighbors in the community. The total impact from their persistence cannot be understated. Their issues were aimed, not at the class-action lawsuit, but at pressing for the plant to be shut down.
The claims by residents of illnesses from exposure to the "onion odor" were initially dismissed by some in state and federal agencies, with occasional assertions that some residents were essentially imagining the physical ailments.
Those dismissals evaporated months later when a Health Consultation report written by federal ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) and Ga. Dept. of Public Health finally acknowledged that short-term illnesses had occurred from the exposure. The report noted, however, that no long-term illnesses were evidenced.
An investigation during the exposure period by The Citizen revealed that required documentation to be supplied by PSC to Ga. Environmental Protection Division (EPD) had not occurred. A condition of the permit to operate the facility included an annual submission of what had been brought into the plant for processing. PSC since it began operations in the mid-1990s had never provided EPD with that information. And EPD had never asked for it.
A Georgia Open Records Law request by The Citizen revealed that EPD had never received the required annual submission since the waste treatment plant was sold by Fulton County to private business interests in 1990 and had never done the follow-up work to request that documentation during the 16 years companies brought waste into the facility..
Similar required submissions had been sent by PSC to Fulton County in compliance with permitting guidelines. But a check of those records by The Citizen showed that the information contained only the required documentation, such as "wash water," without any accounting of the actual products being received, processed and introduced into the Fulton County wastewater treatment system.
In a surprising turn of events, Fulton County in late 2006, and at the request of PSC, said it would not renew the company's permit to discharge wastewater for a period of 6 years. With it no longer able to discharge wastewater, the bulk of PSC's business was effectively shut down. EPD recently said the plant was in process of submitting plans that would affect the complete shut-down of facility operations.
In what seems to some affected residents in Fayette and Fulton as significant, a meta-analysis completed in mid-2008 at University of California San Diego (UCSD) of more than 110 medical studies of Gulf War Syndrome, showed a correlation between Gulf War Syndrome and diseases such as Lou Gehrig's Disease after soldiers were exposed to organophosphate pesticides, Sarin nerve gas and a nerve gas anti-toxin. As with some Gulf War veterans exposed nearly 20 years ago, some in the 40 square-mile Fayette/Fulton hot zone say they are still ill.
The UCSD report came on the heels of a 400+-page, federally-mandated study of Gulf War Syndrome released in the past 2 months. Contradicting earlier, more limited studies, the report showed that the manifestations of Gulf War Syndrome were more physical than psychological. Contained throughout the report was the exposure of troops to organophosphate pesticides.
By: Ben Nelms http://www.thecitizen.com/~citizen0/node/34114