Over the past few weeks, cleanup crews have collected over 200,000 gallons of carburetor cleaner from the Smyrna creek where 2,300 gallons of chemicals were spilled. The company responsible for the spill, Apollo Technologies, say they’ve made considerable progress since the spill. However, as of Monday, the chemical spill has reached the Chattahoochee River.
Residents also still have concerns about the timeline of the spill and reporting. Authorities were first alerted of the leak Saturday, Aug. 13, around 9 a.m. although neighbors have said they noticed the discoloration of the contamination around 2 a.m. From video surveillance, investigators believe the leak started around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 12.
Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Jason Ulseth, who confirmed the contamination has reached both upstream and downstream, describes the solvent leak by Apollo Technologies as the worst he’s seen in years. Many residents living near the contaminated river believe Apollo Technologies is more at fault than has been reported.
A resident of the Kenwood neighborhood told Channel 2 that he spotted an Apollo employee deliberately spraying cleaning solvent down a storm drain. “It was a leak, but when you try to hose a leak down the drain, it’s no longer a leak, it’s actually trying to get rid of your evidence,” Dana McPherson told WSB-TV. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since announced launching a criminal investigation.
The National Response Center tracks data from chemical and oil spills across the country. In 2015, Georgia experienced 557 chemical spills, which lead to 29 fatalities, 37 hospitalizations, and 1,125 evacuations, not to mention the unquantifiable amount of destruction and contamination of Georgian environment and resources.
Spills are rarely made public and in about half of the spills, the company releasing the spills is unknown. The NRC also mentions that dischargers, or the companies responsible for the spills, are often unknown. If they are identified, they often spell their company’s name in a variety of ways so that the spills are not all attributed to one company.
The Smyrna chemical spill is only one of the many that have happened and will happen this year. The NRC’s statistics and information about dischargers show a startlingly languid approach to protecting the environment in Georgia. Some states, like Montana, Idaho, or Nevada, had less than a tenth of the chemical spills that Georgia has.
We need elected officials who will fight for stricter environmental protection laws if we want to live in a Georgia that’s safe and healthy for everyone.