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Close the Pit

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Close the Pit

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  • #79210

    Who is familiar with this situation? I started reading up on Georgia Pacific’s “pit” in Southeast Columbus, how it’s affecting residents, etc., and was horrified to say the least. Here is a summary of what’s going on:

    The Georgia-Pacific Resins Facility on the Southside of Columbus releases hazardous air pollution that can cause cancer, neurological, respiratory, and reproductive harm. The most dangerous chemicals are formaldehyde (a cancer-causing agent), methanol, and phenol. Exposure to these chemicals – even at low concentrations – for long periods of time can cause illness.

    Georgia Pacific uses a pit (‘bio-pond’) behind the plant to treat wastewater generated at the facility. The wastewater is highly toxic and has to be pre-treated before it can be released to the city’s sewer system. The pit is large – 275 feet long and 125 feet wide – and represents an obsolete method of treating wastewater. Large quantities of hazardous chemicals are discharged into the pit including 1,000,000 pounds of formaldehyde, 470,000 pounds of methanol, and 350,000 pounds of phenol (2004 TRI). This is almost triple the amount of chemicals released into the pit in 2000. Georgia Pacific claims that these chemicals are broken down through biodegradation process, in which microscopic bugs consume the chemicals as a source of food.

    The community believes the toxic pit represents an unregulated and uncontrolled source of toxic air emissions.

    http://www.ohiocitizen.org/campaigns/gpac/problem.htm

    #324324

    robertfoshizzle
    Participant

    How far from the plant does this pollution problem extend? I live less than 2 miles from there… yikes.

    #324325

    Analogue Kid
    Participant

    As someone with an environmental science background, I would caution everybody about jumping to conclusions. Although the “pit” does not represent the best available technology, it isn’t automatically a major hazard to the area. The unknown is the efficiency of the treatment that takes place in the pit. Because it is less controlled that most WW treatment operations, it’s hard to say whether they are truly getting 95% efficiency or whatever is claimed.

    The website mentions a study that air pollution is a problem in that neighborhood, however, it doesn’t specify the source. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say the Columbus Steel plant is more of a concern that GP. There seems to be some cherry picking of the facts.

    Also, why are they using 2004 TRI data? Here is the 2008 info:
    http://oaspub.epa.gov/enviro/tri_formr_partone_EFDR.get_details?rpt_year=2008&fac_id=43207GRGPC1975W&ban_flag=Y

    Again I’m not trying to say the plant is good or bad, just clarify things.

    #324326

    I worked for OCA on that campaign in early 2007, which is probably why their data is older.

    #324327

    Tenzo
    Participant

    Before ‘closing’ something you need an alternative.

    #324328

    Tenzo, I think they’re advocating “closing” the pit and “opening” an up to date water treatment plant in its place.

    The EPA doesn’t regulate some of the toxins that are processed in the pit, like phenol, which makes it hard to measure its efficiency. And how can you really pinpoint a source of air pollution, other than to say that neighborhood has more than other neighborhoods, which doesn’t conclusively point to GP. Buckeye Steel also seems to be a problem.

    Residents on well water seem to be experiencing health problems that I’m sure are associated with seepage from the pit into the ground water, but how can I prove that? All I know is that I wouldn’t want to drink or breathe heavily in an area where there’s an open-air, uncontained toxic waste pit. It just doesn’t seem…. right.

    #324329
    Jared
    Jared
    Participant

    I worked at a government water treatment facility in college that treated wastewater with lagoons. The EPA tested the effluent weekly and there were still occasional problems. I don’t remember air pollution being part of the tests.

    On the other hand, forcing the plant to spend money and close the pit could result in people losing jobs.

    Seems like a Morton’s fork.

    #324330

    urbanrunner wrote >>
    I worked at a government water treatment facility in college that treated wastewater with lagoons. The EPA tested the effluent weekly and there were still occasional problems. I don’t remember air pollution being part of the tests.
    On the other hand, forcing the plant to spend money and close the pit could result in people losing jobs.
    Seems like a Morton’s fork.

    Georgia Pacific understandably doesn’t want to fork over the money for an updated facility, but they nonetheless are responsible (legally and morally) for protecting the environment they occupy. Will they lose jobs if they update their technology? It’s up to them.

    But if they don’t, they’ll surely lose out in the long run with lawsuits, public criticism, and more. As for the long-term cost to the residents in that community – and Ohio taxpayers a a result – who can guess? One grave point lost in the health care debate is the efficiency of prevention. If we protect our citizens from toxins in their food, air, and water, they are not going to need such expensive and frequent health care procedures down the road. Sadly, politics are short-sighed and any politician who took this on might be seen as an enemy of business.

    #324331

    Here is an interesting link. Enter your zip code to discover to look up the “TRI” (Toxic Relief Inventory) report. Georgia Pacific releases almost 14,000 pounds of known toxins annually into zip code 43207, the site of said pit.

    If you are concerned about this, you may call plant manager David Mason at 491-9100 ext. 120 and urge him to update his treatment facility to protect residents, employees, and the company’s image.

    #324332
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