You know the old saying about the canary in a coal mine? Something like that is currently happening along the Georgia coast with a species of bird known as least terns. Researchers from the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory have found a blend of toxic chemicals among six nesting populations if last terns in areas surrounding a section of land that used to host the manufacture of insulation materials.
The original source of the contamination, according to researchers, is the now-closed Linden Chemical Plant, which was declared to be a Superfund site back in 1994 after years of spilling toxic waste, including PCBs, heavy metals, and other chemicals. The new research is evidence that the toxic waste extends beyond the bounds of the Superfund site.
Researchers said the level of toxicity among the bird population was high enough to cause serious defects and immune disorders. The fact that these populations have been so seriously impacted demonstrates the transfer of contamination through various marine species upon which the least tern population feeds.
Those who are interested in the history of the Superfund site can find information about it on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. From the looks of it, cleanup efforts took place between 1994 and 1999, and were followed by further efforts in recent years. As of now, the EPA is still engaged in ongoing and proposed cleanup activities at the site. Clearly, the cleanup was and is a big job, and underscores the mess unscrupulous manufacturers can make of the natural environmental surrounding their industry.
In a future post, we’ll look a bit more at the Suprefund cleanup process and how parties are held responsible for contamination.
Upi.com, “Toxic chemicals found in birds near Superfund site in Georgia,” Brooks Hays, Aug. 18, 2015.
EPA, “Region 4: Superfund, LCP Chemicals Georgia,” Accessed Sept. 9, 2015.