TOXIC TROUBLE Does contamination remain in the soil and water


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Few people realize that 6 acres in Flowood remain on the EPA’s Superfund list. Why? Chemical waste left behind in the soil and water that the EPA concluded may be linked to adverse health impacts.

During our investigation we traveled to a Flowood park. This was the ground Tyree Brown once played on as a child.

“This was home you know, yes, yes,” said Brown.

From 1972 to 1985 two Sonford plants produced chemical blocks of white Pentachlorophenal (PCP). According to the National Institutes of Health long term exposure to high levels of dioxins can cause a number of health effects including the risk of cancer.

“We thought it was like a snow capped mountain, said Brown, adding that they played in it.

At the site across the track is where the plant operated.

“On this land, Sonford Products workers broke up 2-thousand pound blocks of chemicals and then mixed a toxic cocktail of Pentachlorophenol for 17 years,” said Brown.

Tyree Brown’s brother, 33 year old Calvin Brown, made his living at the chemical plant. Brown recalled talking with his sick brother.

“He said he felt like acid had been thrown in his face,” said Brown. “He don’t know what happened because somebody had poisoned him. And his skin, it just ate him up.”

Brown claims his brothers death was linked to high levels of exposure to Dioxin. We spoke with Calvin Brown’s mother during our 1985 investigation about the so-called “Penta exposure level.”

“I never dreamed Penta was as dangerous as it was until I lost my son,” said Brown’s mother.

Thirty years ago we also interviewed Evelyn Freels who recalled her husband’s strange illness after working at the plant. 

“His breath when he kissed me smelled like the chemicals,” said Freels. “Even when he took his shower you could smell the chemicals.”

Sixty-three year old Johnny Hobson has lived on Old Fannin Road all his life and vividly remembers the chemical plant.

“And them people started getting sick,” said Hobson. “I don’t know how many people died down there. but it was something bad about that.”

From 2006 to 2009, the EPA conducted a remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS) for the site.

In 2008, the EPA installed a fence around the Sonford Products property and the adjacent Wixson property to prevent trespassing.

Now, 30 years later, little has changed on “ground zero” Payne Drive. Clay Anderson has lived on this street from birth.

When asked how far his lived from the plant, Anderson pointed and said, “Sonford Chemicals, as you can see, used to be right across the railroad tracks.

In 2012 two feet of soil was scraped off 8 Residential lots on Payne Drive and replaced by the EPA.  Region 4 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported contamination affected soil in the Payne Drive neighborhood above an unacceptable risk at those eight parcels and in the adjacent ditch separating the site from the neighborhood.

We found multiple concrete caps indicating EPA monitoring stations in Clay Anderson’s yard. They also dotted other front and back yards of his neighbors.

“They come back every 6 months to test our water,” said Anderson. A”nd when they drawed the water out of this well you could, it was just a chemical smell. You couldn’t even breathe it for a second.”

Anderson says when they went underground in his yard, they found DIOXIN. And they said the water wasn’t contaminated enough.

Anderson says he doesn’t feel safe living there.

“I feel like our property should have been bought and we should be living someplace safe,” said Anderson.

On March 20, despite losses in federal court, Tyree Brown filed another federal lawsuit against DOW chemical company. Brown’s lawsuit demands that people be warned and relocated. 

Mr. Brown filed that  lawsuit because he is still concerned about people who live down here, adults and children

In his closing remarks during our interview back at the house he grew up in, he talked about those who remain behind.

“They have no idea, yet they still drink the tap water, they drink the water the kids are still playing in the dirt,” said Brown. “I want justice.”

While the EPA Superfund site continues to be monitored, ASTDR’s report of the Sonford site concludes that people living on this street are not likely to be exposed to chemicals that put them at risk for cancer or non-cancer health effects.

Documents we obtained from EPA indicates the NAPL recovery phase of the ground water remediation is underway at OU1. Treatment of the contaminated soil and ground water using chemical oxidation by introduction of persulfate is the next phase of the groundwater remedial action.

The remedial design for the ISCO is underway and is scheduled to be complete by September 2015.

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