(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2007) After years of failed political maneuverings, residents in East Point, Georgia have taken legal action case against a local utility pole manufacturer. More than 200 residents near the William C. Meredith Co. on Lawrence Street near downtown have signed onto three lawsuits complaining about noxious odors and dangerous chemicals. The latest, filed in mid-August in Fulton County Superior Court, adds another five dozen plaintiffs to the growing list. The first suit was filed in May. Neighbors to the plant are particularly concerned with creosote and pentachlorophenol, which Meredith uses to treat its utility poles. The two oil-based wood preservatives rank with the most deadly chemicals on the market, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified all of the chemicals, as well as their contaminants, as known or probable carcinogens.
Adam Princenthal, the lawyer representing the East Point residents, said the whole dispute is just about homeowners protecting themselves, their children and their homes. “We’d like to have the emissions of toxic chemicals from the site stopped,” Princenthal said.
Creosote and pentachlorophenol are absorbed easily through the skin, and children may ingest either chemical if they put their unwashed hands in their mouths after touching soil or wood contaminated with creosote or pentachlorophenol. While these possible routes of exposure are shared by all people living close to utility poles treated with pentachlorophenol or creosote, East Point residents fear exposure to the chemicals through inhalation.
Gretchen Sweet, who lives less than a mile away from the plant, said she joined the lawsuits because of concerns about air pollution. “The goal isn’t to get Meredith shut down,” she said. “The goal is to get clean air. It makes me feel really unsafe. I can’t go out for a walk or a jog.”
Officials from Meredith contend that the plant is not fouling the neighborhood with odors or toxins. Dan McGrew, the company’s lawyer, would not comment about the lawsuits’ allegations or what the firm has done to try to appease the neighbors. The company has not violated air pollution regulations, according to the state Environmental Protection Division.
Last fall, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conducted a study in response to the residents’ complaints, and the results will be available later this month, an agency spokeswoman said. Long-term exposure to coal tar creosote may cause skin problems such as blistering and peeling, according to ATSDR. Exposure to pentachlorophenol can induce high fevers. At high levels, it can damage the liver and the immune system.
EPA is currently working through the reregistration process with creosote and pentachlorophenol to evaluate environmental and health concerns. That process began in the mid-1990s and was originally slated for completion in 1998, with the publication of Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) documents. The agency initially pushed the publication date back to 2003 and now claims that the REDs will be available by September 30, 2008.
Beyond Pesticides has focused on the heavy-duty wood preservatives, since the early 1980s. It remains the policy of Beyond Pesticides to work towards a complete ban on the use of these extremely toxic and obsolete chemicals through watchdogging EPA, working with legislators, and providing technical assistance to grassroots.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution