The draft permit allows King America Finishing to categorize itself as a “minor source” of hazardous air pollutants, despite the company’s own calculation that its flame retardant line is capable of producing more than 14 tons of formaldehyde air emissions each year.
That quantity would put King America over the 10-ton limit specified for minor sources of cancer-causing pollutants such as formaldehyde, said Ashten Bailey of GreenLaw, which submitted comments to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division on behalf of the Riverkeeper.
In the draft permit, the EPD requires the company to stick to the 10-ton limit to remain a minor source but doesn’t specify direct monitoring of that limit.
That lack of follow-up is the sticking point for GreenLaw and the Riverkeeper.
“Courts have held, and the EPA has incorporated into its guidance, that such ‘blanket restrictions on actual emissions’ are impermissible because they are ‘virtually impossible to verify or enforce,’” Bailey wrote in her comments to EPD.
King America Finishing’s current air pollution permit, which includes provisions for the flame retardant line, was issued in 2007 and is being renewed. But the water pollution permit is a different story. There, the company failed to get a discharge permit for its first five years of fire retardant operation. The company’s illegal discharges came to light in 2011 following the largest fish kill in Georgia history when an estimated 38,000 fish died, all downstream from the Screven County facility.
“The current draft permit lacks stringent requirements to ensure that King America is not emitting large quantities of hazardous air pollutants, singled out by the Clean Air Act because they cause cancer or other serious health effects,” Bailey said. “GreenLaw is submitting these comments to further its work in ensuring that all Georgians are able to breathe clean air.”
GreenLaw submitted the only public comment on the permit.
“EPD is currently reviewing Greenlaw’s comments and will address these accordingly,” said EPD’s Eric Cornwell. “The draft permit does indeed contain requirements for tracking and recording, on a monthly basis, the facility’s emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants (including formaldehyde), using process information such as raw material and fuel usage. Furthermore, the draft permit requires that King Finishing notify the division promptly if there is an emissions exceedance. To my knowledge, EPA Region 4 has made no adverse comment on this approach in their review of Georgia’s (air pollution) permits.
“A final decision will be reached on this permit after EPD has addressed the comments and made any necessary adjustments to the permit.”
Attorney Lee DeHihns, who represents King America Finishing, said the provisions GreenLaw is commenting on are similar to conditions in its current air pollution permit and are in standard use by EPD in many other air permits.
“The company will discuss the comments with EPD to determine what action they may take in response,” he said.
Ogeechee Riverkeeer Dianna Wedincamp said her organization and GreenLaw continue to fight pollution from King America Finishing on multiple fronts.
“We will not rest until we are able enjoy the river without worrying about our health,” she said.
Wedincamp said she’s experienced the air pollution first hand.
“Sometimes you can drive by and it’s so bad you can hardly breathe because of the ammonia coming out,” she said.
About four months ago she had to shorten an aerial patrol in a small plane because of a strong ammonia odor emanating from the factory.
Without modeling, which the Riverkeeper hasn’t done, it’s unclear where the airborne pollution falls out. But Wedincamp is certain it affects some portions of the watershed.
“You know the air pollution falls out within a certain radius, so it’s going to affect wildlife in that area. All kinds birds, that’s their habitat, plus there are human effects of the pollution.”