Ashley Biles Associate Editor
December 7, 2013
Several citizens addressed the Board of Commissioners at a recent meeting about their concerns with the smells and chemicals being used in and around the TenCate plant on Thundering Springs Road, which they are afraid could be leading to water contamination in Spring Creek and Elkins Creek. The board heard from the same group of citizens earlier last month in reference to this issue and the possible re-issuing of the land application permit for TenCate from the EPD which allows the company to continue dumping their industrial waste on the land through the form of chemical sprays. They have asked for the commissioners’ support in taking steps to reduce the odor and possible water contamination.
One of the gentlemen who spoke, Frank Reagan of Lawrence Road, noted there is a terrible smell that fills the air when the company sprays the fields around the plant and it is messing up the quality of life of the nearby residents. He stated the odor started around 2007 or 2008 and he had been told by a representative of TenCate that it was due to a change in the formula for the spray, however after during a recent meeting with plant managers, Reagan was told the smell had been there all along and the formula had never been changed.
“They contend that the odor has always been here for the last 20 plus years,” said Reagan. “On at least three occasions through the conversation I went back to that, stating I just could not get my arms around that statement, when I know that it really started in 2007-2008… My recollection, along with six other people I polled after the meeting concurred it was in the 2007-2008 range. One even had it documented in her calendar when she called the EPD for the first time (about the smell).”
Donald Fowler, who owns property near the plant and is a representative of the Flint Riverkeepers, also spoke to the board about the odor and the water issues. He stated TenCate’s excuse for the heavy odor this year has been due to their inability to spray with the large amounts of rainfall we have received this year, which he noted leaves one to wonder what the reason was during the drought years of 2010-2012. Fowler obtained copies of TenCate’s quarterly reports from the EPD and after comparing the first two quarters of 2012 (one of the driest years on record) with the first two quarters of 2013 (one of the wettest on record). He noted the total flows of both years are within one percent of each other and therefore it is evident the rainfall does not change the spray flow.
Fowler continued stating in both August 2008 and October 2008, the EPD had recommended for continued compliance with their permit, the company take steps for odor reduction within 12 months or less; something he noted if done has surely failed as the odor has increased in both strength and duration.
He asked the board to take a stand and convey their complaints to the EPD as they being a government entity will get more consideration than any group of assembled citizens.
“We ask you to convey our complaints to the EPD in the form of a letter demanding that the odor at this facility cease and not re-occur. That overspray onto public roads and private property cease and not reoccur. The odor containment requirements should have a time certain for the renewal of TenCate’s permit. Finally, and most importantly, we ask that you go on record and oppose the EPD’s renewal of TenCate’s permit, instead supporting the issuance of a conditional letter which requires TenCate to shift to a waste-water treatment process.”
He stated this path would accomplish three goals: Keep TenCate in business providing a valuable product, jobs and local revenue; it would protect the water quality in Spring Creek and Elkins Creek and it would direct the flow of half a million gallons of water a day that are currently being taken from the streams and applied to the spray fields. He noted that the EPD wants public input before making decisions on the issuing of permits. The deadline for input on TenCate’s permit is today, December 6.
Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston told the gentlemen that he, County Manager Jim Wheeless and several members of the board did meet with plant manager Bruce Bagwell and he was very impressed with the company and the things they are doing in the community. He also stated the company sends off water samples from 22 wells they monitor to the EPD, and he feels if there was something wrong that organization would be the first to step up and say something.
Blackston continued noting TenCate has received so many outstanding awards for their quality of water, their applications and methods that they have been asked to not submit for an award for the next two years to allow for another company to have the chance to be recognized. TenCate also submits grass samples to the University of Georgia and have received an A rating, with A plus being the highest available. Blackston asked if they were violating so many rules, then why is the EPD still allowing them to operate.
Fowler stated the company is self policing and the EPD does not take samples themselves, they only receive the results from TenCate.
“All I know is when we test the water out of the ground at the springhead it is one thing and when we test it at their facility it is reading 80-90 times higher.”
He stated they have sent their results to the EPD but have not received a response as of yet. The board took no action on the matter, but stated they would take the comments under advisement.