A review of state files by the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper shows contaminated pond water entered Long Cane Creek from the Pilot water treatment facility off Whitesville Road.
A report by Henry Jacobs, middle Chattahoochee outreach manager for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said Pilot has spent “several hundred thousand dollars” to clean up the site. Interest in the location began earlier this year after a group of residents, spearheaded by Dale Jackson, made the smell and concerns of possible contamination a public concern, which lead to County Commission becoming involved and Chairman Ricky Wolfe contacting the Riverkeeper.
Jacobs’ report states that the small treatment plant, which serves about 10 businesses, was built in 1973 and Pilot took it over in 2011. The report included the following information and timeline of EPD action at the site:
“A permit issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) allows treated sewage from the plant to be discharged into Long Cane Creek, a meandering 20-mile stream that originates near Mountville and flows southwest through Troup County to meet the Chattahoochee a few miles below West Point Dam. For the past three years, CRK (Chattahoochee Riverkeeper) has monitored this stream monthly at two sites with local volunteers from the LaGrange Sierra Club.
EPD has issued citations over the years for equipment failure and inadequate maintenance at the sewage plant. The state agency also noted probable illegal dumping of petroleum products and other toxic substances into the sludge pond prior to Pilot’s ownership of the facility.
In 2013, EPD investigated the contamination in pond water and soils and subsequently issued another notice of violation. Citizen and local official involvement, media coverage and our discussions with state officials helped expedite the cleanup process. EPD’s Response and Remediation Program took over enforcement and monitoring in April.
According to an EPD report issued in May, samples from the pond sludge and groundwater reveal above average concentrations of acetone, ethylbenxene, toluene, trimethyl benzenes and xylenes – all chemicals indicative of petroleum contamination.
Although Pilot has removed significant amounts of contaminated water and soil from the pond for proper disposal, EPD is concerned about remaining contaminated soils and groundwater.
In a letter dated June 30, 2014, the agency advised Pilot that additional work is needed at the site, which may be placed on Georgia’s hazardous site inventory. In particular, EPD is concerned about “the high concentrations of 1,4 dioxane.” EPD noted: “Impacted soil on site could prove harmful to human health from direct exposure over a period of time…”
Troup County officials and CRK continue to monitor the pond closure to protect surface and ground waters and the community.”
Pilot applied for a renewal of its permit with EPD for discharge into the creek in April. CRK and county officials submitted comments, urging EPD to renew the permit with a condition that the businesses using the malfunctioning plant must connect to the LaGrange sewer system, when it becomes available.
According to the CRK report, EPD responded to these comments by amending the draft permit with provisions that should lead to the closure of the failing facility in the future.
The Daily News submitted a list of questions to Pilot Corporation about the status of the cleanup and why it decided to close the pond. The company gave the following statement:
“Pilot Flying J is working with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) on a plan to fully decommission the pond. The scope of work is currently being discussed, and Pilot Flying J will comply with EPD requirements.
The safety and convenience of our customers, team members and the communities we serve are top priorities at Pilot Flying J.”
A request for comments from the EPD was not returned as of press time.