S. Fulton firm agrees to settlement over chemical stench

19 10 2008

George Nicholson was driving to his south Fulton County home one day two summers ago when he smelled an onionlike odor from the highway.

The closer he got to home, the stronger the smell.  “The smell was bothering everybody,” said Nicholson. “The dogs wouldn’t go outside.”

Nicholson and his Fairburn neighbors soon figured out the source of the stench — chemicals from the plant owned by Philip Services Corp., tucked away off Ga. 92, where wastewater was treated and sent to Fulton County.

About 2,000 residents — some from 15 miles away in Peachtree City — claimed the odor and chemicals caused health problems and made their lives unbearable.

At issue were water shipments from Alabama containing the agricultural pesticide ethoprop and an odorizer additive called propyl mercaptan. Ethoprop, also known as Mocap, is lethal to humans and wildlife in large quantities and is a known human carcinogen. The propyl mercaptan, commonly added to pesticides and natural gas as a warning agent, can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and skin irritation.

Last month, Texas-based Philip Services agreed in principle to a $4 million settlement. The settlement is scheduled to be finalized in April.

Despite the deal, those who live closest to the plant are not satisfied. Some say the chemicals that caused the smell beginning in June 2006 caused more serious health problems that have been ignored or covered up by local, state and federal officials. They want the plant shut down.

“At some point, [Philip Services] had to realize it was more than an odor,” said Nicholson, whose son’s allergies worsened. Nicholson’s wife had congestion issues.

Nicholson’s neighbor, Earl Hindman, blames the plant for the rapid deterioration in the health of his wife, Clare, 66, whom he said was diagnosed with amyotropic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, shortly after the smell began. She died Aug. 24.

“There’s no doubt in my mind. My wife was poisoned,” said Hindman.

An attorney who represented Philip Services noted a 102-page report by state and federal health officials found no hazardous levels of the chemicals believed to have caused the odor. The report was released in March.

Read on here.

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