Satilla River: Toxic Legacy in Waycross Needs Further Investigations, Cleanups, in Georgia Water Coalition’s Dirty Dozen 2013,
Satilla RiverToxic legacy in Waycross Needs Further Investigations, Cleanups
Lurking within Mary Street Park, a tree-lined neighborhood park in Waycross, is a silent killer—toxic pollutants from a defunct industrial wastewater treatment facility known as Seven Out Tank. Opened in 2002, the industrial waste handler operated only two years before multiple environmental violations led to the facility’s closure. Now, after eight years and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) supervised cleanup of the industrial site, contamination still threatens the health of local residents, municipal drinking water supplies and tributaries to the Satilla River.
Situated adjacent to neighborhoods of intown Waycross, the Seven Out Tank site is drained by intermittent streams that flow through the city to Tebeau Creek and ultimately to the Satilla River. These urban drainage ways provide multiple avenues for residents to come in contact with contaminated soil, water and air. A thriving sport fishery on the Satilla offers yet another way for humans to be poisoned by Seven Out Tank’s toxic legacy—by eating contaminated fish. A blackwater river lined with sugar-white sandbars, the Satilla is a southeast Georgia treasure, flowing 260 miles through the coastal plain and skirting the towns of Waycross and Woodbine before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at St. Andrew Sound and Cumberland and Jekyll Islands.
In 2002 when Seven Out Tank began processing industrial wastewater it discharged the treated water to the City of Waycross’s sewer system. Within two years, the city terminated the facility’s connection because of its failure to properly treat the waste. Rather than ceasing operations, Seven Out continued to accept hazardous substances, storing the toxins in on-site tanks that overflowed and spilled into adjacent neighborhoods and Tebeau Creek.
In 2005, USEPA took action against the facility, leading to a clean up of the site in 2008. A year later, USEPA declared the cleanup complete. But, today, concerns about contamination—both on the abandoned industrial site that still holds multiple storage tanks and off-site in adjoining neighborhoods—still linger.
Local residents suspect the Seven Out Tank site is responsible for a cluster of diseases in the neighborhood near the site. With public water supply wells located within a half mile of the site, contamination of well water also remains a concern.
Off site, analysis of soil samples taken from an area downstream of the Seven Out Tank earlier this year showed elevated levels of PAHs, including benzo anthracene and benzo flouranthene, two PAHs that USEPA believes can cause cancer.
These tests suggest that leaks from the deteriorating facilities at the site may be continuing or that off-site contamination was not detected in USEPA’s initial investigations.
What Must Be Done:
Prompted by Silent Disaster Group (a coalition of citizen advocates in Waycross), the Georgia Department of Public Health and USEPA have begun additional investigations to determine if contamination from the Seven Out Tank facility continues to pose risks to human health or the environment.
Those investigations should be robust with extensive tests of soil, streams, well water and air quality to identify the sources and movement of contaminants as well as risks to human health. The investigations should lead to a plan to clean up all contaminated areas and prevent any further toxic releases from the abandoned industrial site.
For More Information Contact:
Ashby Nix, Satilla Riverkeeper, 912-510-9500, firstname.lastname@example.org
Joan McNeal, Silent Disaster Group, 912-281-6897, email@example.com