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August 3, 2005

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Colonial a no show at forum on petroleum spills
About 30 people attended a meeting Tuesday focused on petroleum spills by Colonial Pipeline in the Colbert Grove Church Road area. However, no Colonial representatives were on hand.
And only two Madison County government officials attended the meeting — commissioner Bruce Scogin and new county planner Doug Appler.
The meeting was arranged by Jill McElheney of Micah’s Mission and the Northeast Georgia Children’s Environmental Health Coalition.
McElheney, a Winterville resident who began taking an interest in area contamination issues after her son was diagnosed with leukemia six years ago, said she asked Colonial representatives to attend the meeting. But she was told by a company spokesperson that Colonial wouldn’t meet in a group setting, only with individuals.
One audience member responded to McElheney’s announcement of Colonial’s absence, saying that the company “wants to meet with families separately to give them separate stories.”
Colonial representatives have said they don’t feel public meetings are productive.
“Our experience has taught us that it’s not a good way to communicate with the public because some people want a soapbox and don’t let other people speak,” said Sam Whitehead, government affairs manager for Colonial, in a 2004 interview. “Many people can be intimidated by meeting in a group setting. So we meet one-on-one with residents, government officials and the media.”
Colonial Pipeline admits to six pipeline spills from its booster station just south of Danielsville between 1966-79. Some 15 years later, benzene, a contaminant known to cause cancer, was discovered in drilled residential wells around the booster station. The company has since bought about 30 homes from property owners in the contaminated area.
And last year, the company provided $947,000 to the county industrial authority to provide a water line from Madico Park to the Colbert Grove contaminant zone.
That line has been established. But some area residents continue to use well water and say they have no plans to switch. Eight people raised their hands Tuesday when a panelist asked how many residents of the area were still using well water.
“When I have well water, why should I have to pay a water bill the rest of my life?” asked Double Branch Road resident Kenneth Fowler after Tuesday’s meeting. Fowler said Colonial has offered him money for his two wells but he has no plans to discontinue use of those wells. He said that he has yet to get his wells tested for benzene contamination and that he doesn’t
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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