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    Jointly reported by WebMD and Georgia Health News

    A History of Pollution continued...

    In a statement emailed to WebMD, CSX said the data they’ve collected show their system is “effectively capturing and treating the impacted groundwater. The safety and health of the public and our employees is CSX’s first priority in all aspects of our operations.”

    CSX says the chemicals that were spilled there have never left its property. But there’s been little testing from the state or the company to check that. CSX did not respond to specific questions about how the company knows that toxins haven’t leached off-site.

    Residents and environmental experts question whether that is true.

    A community group called Silent Disaster, led by former Waycross resident Joan Tibor, has been tracking the cases of childhood cancer in the town. For 3 years, the group has prodded authorities to investigate whether the town has a cancer cluster.

    She alerted state Rep. Jason Spencer, a Republican from Woodbine, who is also a physician assistant. He says the news of the children's cancers got his attention. He also started pushing the Georgia Department of Public Health to do more to help the town.

    The department repeatedly denied interview requests for this story. All information in the story is from public documents that are online or received through open records requests from WebMD and Georgia Health News. To see the records reviewed for this special report, click here.

     

      railyard with hazardous waste sign

    Last December, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the CDC, agreed to help. They are overseeing state health officials as they try to determine if the chemicals spilled under CSX threaten the health of the community. Their report on CSX is finished, and according to an update sent to Spencer, is expected to be posted for public comment by the end of the year.

     

    ATSDR has also agreed to supervise state efforts to look into possible health risks for a second contaminated site: The old Consumers Gas and Coke Company. Between 1916 and 1953, the plant, which is now owned by the Atlanta Gas Light Company, turned coal into gas to heat and light area homes. The process created toxic coal tar, spiked with chemicals like arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both linked to cancer. In the early days of the company, this sticky coal tar was dumped into a canal that runs through downtown neighborhoods and a public park. Atlanta Gas Light eventually removed more than 128,000 tons of contaminated soil from the canal and continues to monitor the site, but the cleanup wasn’t started until the late 1990s, more than four decades after the plant shut down.