Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Where there's smoke...

I've been reading through all the various health and environmental agencies responses to the problem at the Philip Services Corporation in Fairburn. I've also been out on the Internet looking up mercaptan, MOCAP, ethoprop.

All the "official" responses from the Fulton County Health Department, EPD and related agencies seem to have a similar "tone." My impression from the overall "tone" of their written and verbal responses is that they look at this as something they're being required to take seriously (political pressure? covering their behinds?) but they look at it as an "odor" problem. You can almost feel them rolling their eyes at times.

Now there are some agencies that are taking this very seriously. Kudos to the Fayette County Department of Fire & Emergency Services, Representative Virgil Fludd, the Fayette County Board of Commissioners and others who are going above and beyond! And don't take what I wrote above wrong - I'm not saying these agencies aren't responding. There is a lot of effort being put into this and lots of paperwork is being generated. But it seems that most of the effort from the state is geared toward placating citizens.

However, if they were truly taking this seriously, they would be doing the best of the best when it came to taking samples. They would have had some speed behind their actions. They would have gone and be going that extra mile to make sure people had access to proper medical testing. There would be some testing of the pets that have died under unusual circumstances. The citizens wouldn't need to be yelling and pushing to get things done. The agencies would be leading the way.

I've read about mercaptan, which is the chemical causing the odor. It seems, if I'm understanding all the technical jargon correctly, you have to be exposed to one huge amount of mercaptan to get the symptoms people are complaining about.

When you look at over 400 people with similar symptoms common sense would dictate that some other chemical must be in play. As long as the EPD and others look at this as a mercaptan (odor) problem, they take it too seriously.

I'm disappointed in the response from state agencies. To my way of thinking, if there's smoke, there's a fire of some sort. You don't wait until you see the fire to respond. You go to the source and keep looking until you find how the smoke is being generated. You don't show up with a backyard hose or water guns, you bring the fire trucks and the big hoses. (From a common sense way of looking at things, if you want the citizens to have faith that there's nothing there when you say it, you do everything in your power to prove there's nothing there. )

Continuing the fire metaphor... I could be wrong, but it seems that those who set this fire (Philip) are telling the fire fighters (EPD, etc.) they put out a small fire without a burning permit, were willing to take their punishment and now they've promised they won't do it again. Meanwhile local citizens are pointing to huge clouds of smoke and saying the problems bigger, fire's not out...

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