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Faulty equipment might be cause of chemical release

Liberty County EMA Director Larry Logan said Thursday evening, that according to information he received from SNF Chemtall, malfunctioning equipment might be to blame for a chemical release into waters in Riceboro.

Logan confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency took samples to an independent lab for analysis, and EMA expects to receive an update on the findings on Friday.

The Liberty County Department of Health issued a warning Tuesday advising folks to not swim, wade, fish or play in the water at the Riceboro Dock – Located off Highway 17 South on Interstate Paper Road,  Riceboro Fishing Dock – Located on Highway 17 and the Baptismal Pool – Located at Barrington Ferry Road/E.B. Cooper Highway due to the chemical release.

The Courier reached out to the Department of Health and LCEMA earlier this week. According to Logan, their office along with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency were looking into the matter after being notified by representatives of SNF Chemtall in Riceboro.

According to a press release issued by SNF Tuesday evening, the company is investigating the possible release of Methyl Chloride into the water. The release said that methyl chloride is usually burned in the incinerators, cleaned out and that only the clean water is released. But their tests indicated that the methyl chloride was released into Riceboro Creek. 

SNF, immediately notified all the proper authorities and began remediation efforts.

"We are conducting tests of water samples taken both upstream and downstream from the discharge outfall to monitor the situation. SNF is cooperating fully with the authorities. The incinerator has been shut down," the statement read. "Out of an abundance of caution, no fishing signs were posted at all nearby docks. Liberty County Health Department also has issued no swimming or wading orders."

"The spill is still under investigation and samples are being collected," Logan said Wednesday. "The safety precautions put in place by DPH (Department of Public Health) will remain in place until results come back from the lab. Chemtall is also testing with independent labs as well. We are unsure at the moment of the time line for results to return."

The environmental group, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, posted additional information about the release on their Facebook page Wednesday afternoon:

"Ogeechee Riverkeeper is monitoring the chemical spill at SNF Chemical in Liberty County. There was an equipment malfunction that released 200 lbs. of methyl-chloride/water mix into the tidal marsh, approximately 30 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The release could affect Blackbird Creek. As of this time, the release has been stopped and some of the effluent has been recovered. DNR is on-site looking for aquatic impacts. Currently, there are no reports of impacts to fish or other aquatic life. At this time, all operations at the plant have been shut down. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as new information comes in. Additionally, we will ensure that corrective actions are taken to prevent an accident like this from happening in the future."

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