Mincey Marble’s Vice President of Operations, Jim Huddleston, recently provided the company’s view of the facts about styrene, which would be useful information if it were complete.
While Huddleston stated that there have been virtually no complaints, county and state records show otherwise. In July 2008, residents on Holland Hill Road and Spain Hill Road complained to Hall County commissioners during a rezoning hearing. Formal complaints were delivered to environmental authorities again in October 2013 and August 2014. From April to the end of September 2016, 27 formal complaints were filed against Mincey and registered in Georgia’s Complaint Tracking System.
Huddleston discussed workplace epidemiology studies and concluded that the public must be safe. In doing this, he relied on OSHA’s workplace exposure standards established in the 1970s to protect the average healthy adult worker. But relying on OSHA’s standards is inappropriate for neighboring residents.
The appropriate reference for prolonged public exposure to styrene is issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Their Tox Guide for styrene specifies a minimal risk level for the general public’s prolonged exposure of 0.2 parts per million. Compare that to styrene’s odor threshold of 0.320 parts per million: when we smell it, we are 60 percent above the federal government’s minimal risk level for the public.
DHHS’s public exposure levels, based on information more recent than the 1970s, account for children, the elderly and people with respiratory issues or other chronic illnesses. That’s why their levels are lower and more protective.
Huddleston indicated that most of Mincey’s styrene is chemically bound in the finished product, some of it is filtered and some of it escapes. Let’s look at what escapes. Mincey’s certified reports to EPA show the company currently emits more than one ton of styrene into the air weekly, after filtering. According to EPA statistics, that’s an unusually large amount of styrene in the context of Mincey’s industry group.
Huddleston mentioned his long career working with styrene, during which he has never known anyone who became ill from styrene exposure. My father, now 84, was up to a three-pack-a-day smoker for nearly 40 years and has never developed a serious smoking-related illness. Sometimes you get lucky.
Mincey has tested for styrene in locations surrounding their property. But they have not used air sampling methods approved by the EPA or Georgia. Suitable tests are expensive, detailed and lengthy. Mincey’s workplace instrument was only sensitive enough to measure momentary levels above the odor threshold. To offer a film analogy, if the EPA’s testing produces a full length digital movie, Mincey’s testing yields a couple of grainy snapshots.
We residents “cowering” inside our homes are far from exaggerating or trying to scare the public. Nor are we challenging Mincey’s existing operation. We’re simply reporting the facts that Mincey overlooks. Based on the facts, we strongly oppose allowing further industrial expansion in an area that has been zoned agricultural-residential since 1978.