Skip to content

    Jointly reported by WebMD and Georgia Health News

    Did Regulators Fail the Town? continued...

    When the state came to test, Tibor followed along. At two of the houses, she collected split samples -- where a batch of soil or water is split and half given to the other party so they can do their own independent testing.

    When the results came back, the letters sent to residents were largely reassuring. The state said that their inspectors had tested for over 150 different compounds and that “no contaminants associated with industrial activities were present above their detection limits.”

    But there was a problem. The independent lab Tibor used -- Ana-Lab in Kilgore, TX -- returned different results than the state’s lab. She consulted with outside experts to find out why. They explained that the state’s tests were less sensitive, which meant they didn’t find as many chemicals in the water.

    For example, the state’s test results for the soil in one resident’s yard say the toxic chemicals benzo(a)pyrene and benzo(a)anthrocene were “not detected.”

    The tests run by the lab Tibor hired did find those chemicals. The level of benzo(a)pyrene, for example, was 13 times higher than levels the EPA uses to to trigger further evaluation and possible cleanup of an area.

    Tibor was furious. “In our opinion, the state has done very little to help the town, even at times being a detriment to the community by providing false and misleading information,” she says.

    Silent Disaster wasn’t the only group that found the agency’s testing in Waycross to be inadequate.

    An open records request filed by WebMD and Georgia Health News shows that officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health have urged their counterparts in the state’s Environmental Protection Division to do more and better testing of the air, water, and soil in Waycross.

    An October 2015 email, sent 3 months after Lexi was diagnosed, bears out many of the complaints voiced by members of Silent Disaster.

    The email from Jane Perry, director of the Chemical Hazards Program at the Georgia Department of Public Health, recommends more testing for the Waycross area. It also recommends that EPD use more sensitive tests and look for more toxic chemicals, including heavy metals like arsenic, chromium and lead, which are found in high amounts on the CSX property.