Mercury problem still unresolved

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 25, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The state has denied an Augusta plant's most recent plans to fix a mercury problem.

"I think that this plan is actually worse than no plan at all," said Dr. Frank Carl, a Savannah River Keeper.

He says the Olin Corporation needs to release less mercury from its Augusta plant.

Mercury has long been known to be dangerous. It can hurt developing fetuses and the nervous system and even cause death.

Two years ago, Carl says he tested the water near Olin.

Compared to other parts of the Savannah River, he found 2,500 times more mercury in the channel that is near the plant.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division told the plant to find a way to release less mercury.

But the state says Olin's most recent plan isn't good enough.

The EPD sent a letter to Olin Thursday saying they won't approve it.

"It's actually gonna make the problem worse. The mercury gets to the river faster," Carl said.

Under the plan, the waste-water would have gone straight to the river after being treated, as opposed to going to a canal by the plant.

Another part of the plan calls for olin to drain, cover, and block that canal.

Carl would rather see the contamination removed and placed in a landfill.

Even after the EPD denied the plan, the plant manager stood by it.

"We feel that plan is the most protective of the community and the environment and that it does capture and isolate the mercury, preventing any exposure to the community," manager David Blair said.

Carl disagrees, and says a lot more work will have to be done for him to be happy.

"If we don't take care of mother nature, she can't take care of us," he said.

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