A History of Pollution continued...
The two companies aren’t the town’s only worry.
Waycross has two other active state Superfund sites -- polluted sites in need of cleanup -- and four other area businesses have recently been cited for violations of federal environmental laws. The EPA determined that another old state Superfund site, Seven Out Tank, a facility that took in hazardous wastes but failed to properly treat or dispose of it, had toxic chemicals at levels that increase health risks. But follow-up reports from the EPA and the Georgia Department of Public Health said that people probably weren’t being exposed to them in ways that would harm them. Some residents worry that all the dumping, spills, and releases over the years have poisoned their town.
When they were interviewed for this story, Haylee Metts, her husband, Ray, and their two young children lived in a trailer about 20 minutes southwest of downtown in the small community of Manor.
Standing at the end of her driveway, she points down the street. “Starting at my house, there are six houses. Every house, starting with my house, has some form of cancer,” she says.
In her house, cancer hit her 6-year-old daughter, Raylee. She was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer that spread to her rib, spine, pelvis, shoulder, and hip before doctors figured out what was causing her symptoms.
Raylee spent a year in intensive chemotherapy at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, FL, where many kids in southeast Georgia are treated.
Haylee Metts said she had never wondered about chemicals in the area until she started talking to the nurses at the hospital.
“The nurses one time -- and they said they were joking -- said, ‘What’s in your water there? We have so many cases from your area that come in here, it’s unreal,' ” Metts said.
“It sends red flags to me,” she said, “Why? What’s causing it?”
After Raylee was diagnosed, her family stopped drinking their well water. They’ve since moved to get away from a small farm next door that regularly sprays pesticides on its crops. Haylee says they felt they had to relocate to protect their son, Kreek, who is a toddler.