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Lawsuits Filed Against Georgia Utility Pole Plant Over Health and Environmental Concerns

(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


10 Responses to “Lawsuits Filed Against Georgia Utility Pole Plant Over Health and Environmental Concerns”

  1. 1
    Suzanne Says:

    My husband and I are considering moving to East Point. Over the past year,we have visited EP many times during daytime hours and had not noticed a smell, although we had noticed an odd smell at night. Over the last month or so, while looking at homes, we could not help but notice a very heavy, sickeningly sweet smell in the air. My husband nailed it right away – Creosote. We followed our noses and found the Meredith Company. If their attornies say they are not fouling the area with odors, they are not speaking the truth.

    Please know that the homes we were looking at were over a mile away from WCMCo. The fumes from this company are affecting a very large area.

    In addition, two hours after leaving the the EP area, our clothes still smelled of creosote.

    The EPA should do a new air quality check. The smell is horrible.

    “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.”

    Are you kidding me?? Over TEN years?? Forgive my jaded outlook, but who or what is the EPA protecting?? The environment and people of this community? Or could it be the Meredith Co. the EPA is protecting?

    In closing, please remember I do not live in this area. We’re not sure if we will move into this area. We have no financial interests in the area. Plain and simple, what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. The noxious odors we smelled are wrong for the environment and the people. It’s just that simple.

  2. 2
    Judy Says:

    I live about one mile south of the Meredith plant. Some days, when the wind is right, the smell is so strong you can actually taste it. Some days going outside makes it difficult to breath, and frequently the smell brings with it painful headaches.

    There is a class action suit from the neighborhood, but I’m saddened to recently find out that Meredith’s lawyers are now bullying the plaintifs with counter suits.

    We’re getting sicker and sicker and they just don’t care.

  3. 3
    Agnes Says:

    I live on Connally Drive and the smell is very strong there as well. I am fed up with East Point giving me the run around on this matter. If anyone has any other suggestions please contact me by email at [email protected]

  4. 4
    R. A. Says:

    Does anyone know if there is technology in use to contain air emissions from these preservative operations? I know there are methods for masking the odors from landfills and, by the way, who wants to just mask such things? But is there a way to enclose such facilities so that these toxins (often supposedly below alarming levels) and offensive odors? Why isn’t this being done? I’ve been looking, off and on, on the internet for days and can find no operation which makes any effort to contain the emissions.

  5. 5
    M. Bennett Says:

    I just moved to East Point on Harris Drive and discovered the horrible smell coming from Meredith. I never smelled it during my visits to look at my home, but on Saturday night, the day I moved in, and yesterday morning it hung in the air oppressively. There is NO way that smell can be healthy – it made me want to throw up. How can we stop this from happening? How do we make this company stop putting these chemicals in the air? I didn’t buy my house to live in a neighborhood that smells like this. Please advise how I can take action.

    Thank you. Melaine

  6. 6
    R. Kirkland Says:

    My girlfriend just moved into Jefferson Park. While looking at potential homes there, she nor we never noticed the horrible smell that we have now discovered. Since she has moved in, she has noticed it more frequently. I was over last night for dinner and now have a headache from the hidious odor. You can even smell it inside of her house! I am not too sure what is being done in regards to the neighbors in the area and their concerns. But let ME make one thing clear… I will help fight the good fight with her and all of you. There is no way that the emissions coming from Meredith could be anything less that harmful. I am definately a pro-business, less government kind of guy, but this is obviously a serious problem as it relates to health and quality of life and sufficent steps should be take to rid the area of the hazzard and or problem. What does the city of East Point want? A horrible chemical plant pumping irritants into the air or a whole town of empty homes that no one wants to buy? Let’s face it, people aren’t exactly coming in droves to live in E.Point(yet anyway). Oh and what about the high school? Anyone there have any issues? Teachers? Parents? Students? One things for sure, my girl will not be subjected to such health dangers if I can help it! East Point could very well be the next great place to live in Atlanta but this issue going unresolved will stand in the way of that and a healty quality of life, for sure. Hang in there!!! I’m with ya!

  7. 7
    G. Nelson Says:

    I am a resident of East Point for 15 years. Only in the past 3 or 4 years has the creosole smell become so strong all the time. As I drive to Jefferson Park from downtown via I-75/I-85 just after veering off onto I-85 before the Meetropolotian Parkway exit I being to smell cresole from the expressway. As I turn right onto Cleveland Ave and head toward South Fulton Hostipal the smell becomes overwhelming.

    One night recently I went through the drive in window at the Krystal in East Point. The smell was so bad that I couldn’t even wait in line to order. I just left. This problem seems to be getting worse and worse. What can citizens do. This devalues property which by the way, is a crime in East Point. Let me know what I can do help.

  8. 8
    B Frey Says:

    I just moved to Jefferson Park in East Point, and noticed the smell that all of you are mentioning right away. It comes and goes. Sometimes it is strong and other times it is simply not there. What have the studies shown? Is there any followup? Is the air safe? I just bought a home and I am really nervous about all of this right now. How can I learn more about the issue?

  9. 9
    E Bailey Says:

    I’ve noticed a strong diesel smell mostly in the mornings and particularly over the last 2-3 years. I live on the east side of Jefferson Park.
    On mornings when the smell is strong; if I’m outside more than 1 minute; I will have a splitting headache all the way until bed time. I stuck my head out the door for all of 10 seconds this morning and I’m sitting here with a headache. Otherwise, I don’t get headaches and never have.
    I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe they are conforming to legal air standards. The state is in the pocket of business interests but the EPA may be interested.
    People have a right to earn a profit, but not at the expense of an entire community’s health and quality of life.

  10. 10
    LO Says:

    I’ve been a resident of East Point for over five years and live with constant fear that exposure to William C. Meredith’s pollutants are destroying my health. The stench is undeniable, and actually burns my nostrils and fouls the air in my home. I often have to hold my breath while getting in and out of my car in order to avoid inhaling it. Residents in my neighborhood said that they were all sent $200 checks several years back with a letter informing them that their water had been contaminated with chemicals for the plant. The William C. Meredith plant is nothing less than an environmental injustice…

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