Mobile Gas officials hosted an open house on Thursday in an effort to explain how they’re handling Mercaptan in the area.
77 Eight Mile residents signed up to take the tour that leads them to one of two water treatment facilities where engineers explained how the facility works to treat ground water that may come in contact with mercaptan. Another facility that was not open to the tour treats spring water.
“What we’re doing is extracting ground water from the sub-surface, running it through an ozone treatment system and injecting ozone into it, then discharging it back into the environment,” McFadden Engineering Vice President Brad Newton explained. “It’s a ground water issue so that’s why we’re treating the water.”
Newton said the water meets all of the qualifications for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, and they carefully selected the location for their facility based on scientific studies and investigations into where mercaptan is located.
“All the testing and results that were received from all that work that was done is what drove the location of the system,” Newton said.
The officials explained in-depth how the facility works, but when it came to the questions people had about their health, they couldn’t answer them due to a court order from pending litigation that prohibits them from talking about the 2008 mercaptan spill at all.
This proved frustrating for many of the people who went on the tour even though Mobile Gas officials explained their legal limitations in a prior press release.
“All the questions I had were ‘taboo’ because of the situation that’s going on. It really didn’t help me at all.” said Gabrella Bennet after she went on the tour.
“it wasn’t a good tour. I don’t think it was, but I can appreciate Mobile Gas coming out and sharing what they did share,” Prichard Mayoral candidate Jimmie Gardner said after he finished the tour. “It was very limited and the people were no better off going.”
A week ago Eight Mile residents marched around Federal Court to implore more investigations into the spill and its health effects. Claretta Davis of the We Matter Eight Mile Community Action group, who helped organize the protest efforts, said she was frustrated with Thursday’s tour.
“I feel like it was a ‘horse and pony’ show. It was really a PR stunt to try to discredit the residents’ claims that there is still mercaptan in this community,” Davis said.
She and many other residents are hoping that a new law signed by President Obama that allows the EPA to classify mercaptan as a hazardous material could be their saving grace.
We asked Congressman Bradley Byrne about what happens next. He said, “We just passed the law. The EPA hasn’t made that determination in regards to mercaptan. So it’s their job under that legislation to make that determination. We’ve streamlined the process for them so we should be getting a determination about mercaptan a lot sooner than we would have otherwise.”
Prichard City Councilmember Lorenzo Martin is in Washington D.C today to meet with local representatives about the issue.