Draft permit for new turpentine plant in Effingham County causes questions from some

“I just think it’s peaceful, it’s beautiful and it’s characteristic of many black water creeks in Coastal Georgia,” says Lewis Taylor. He’s talking about Ebenezer Creek, what he says is one of only four state designated scenic rivers. The creek is 11 miles in length from the head waters at Springfield to where it pours into the Savannah River.

“I’ve been documenting the creek at all stages of the year at all light levels,” says Taylor.

Now he’s documenting something else, the process for a draft permit for a new turpentine plant not far away. “My concerns about the permit application and the possibility of chemical waste to the creek are numerous,” says Lewis. ” I don’t believe that anything should be added to the creek to degrade the water quality.”

Taylor says the creek already has low levels of dissolved oxygen which always worsen in hot weather.

Nearby is a $43 million dollar facility that is all but complete. DRT America is touted by Effingham County development officials as a “great project that will bring 40 well paying jobs.”

DRT America (its parent company is located in France) will be distilling turpentine, a crude material found in area pine trees. Corey Schneider, president of DRT America told the facility is going to distill a material called crude turpentine. In addition to turpentine, he says these are the other materials that will be used in the process: sodium hydroxide,hydrogen peroxide and liquefied nitrogen. He says the distilling process separates the turpentine into different molecules used to make a variety of products and to manufacture flavors, fragrances, adhesives and resins.

“We produce some process water and process water is treated in a several step process before it’s discharged,” Schneider told me.

He says any discharge materials will always go through “pre” treatment” at the plant site. Afterward, the plant’s pre-treated water will be sent on to the city of Springfield Wastewater Treatment plant where it will be treated a second time. “Any discharge from us might resemble the same thing as from a housing development,” Schneider told me.

After treatment by Springfield’s Wastewater Treatment facility, the water would be aerated on land near the creek and or some discharged into creek water. Taylor wondered if “current systems such as land applications (at the city of Springfield facility) actually function well enough to filter out any waste and keep it from reach the creek.”

While Schneider says it does, it seems the plant facility may need to convince some members of the public. “I look forward to going to the public hearing and explaining exactly what it is that we’re doing,” said Schneider. “And I think at that point it will be up to the state EPD folks to explain how they write permits and what they are going to require from us.”

Taylor says the public hearing (set for Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Springfiled at the Administrative Complex is worth attending). “This is the public’s only opportunity to have any input whatsoever on the water quality permit,” he told us.

Springfield Mayor Barton Alderman sent us this statement about the city’s involvement thus far:

The City of Springfield is monitoring the process of DRT America’s application for a Pre-Treatment Permit from the EPD in which it seeks a permit to discharge pre-treated industrial wastewater to the City of Springfield’s wastewater treatment plant. DRT’s facility is not located within the City limits, and thus the City has no control over issues such as zoning or permitting related to the facility.

The City of Springfield has been in discussions with DRT America and the other government agencies in Effingham County regarding the possibility of the City’s wastewater treatment plant processing DRT’s pre-treated industrial wastewater. While the City has agreed to provide water service and domestic wastewater service for bathrooms, the City is not currently obligated to accept DRT’s industrial wastewater.

The City has cautiously approached the issue to ensure that the environment and best interests of the City and its citizens are protected. The City will continue to do so. The City’s position has been clearly stated from the early stages of this project, which is, that an agreement for the industrial wastewater with DRT will not be approved until after a Pre-Treatment permit is issued, and not until all of its questions are answered satisfactorily, including questions related to the nature of the discharges and any potential impact the treated industrial wastewater would have on the environment, particularly Ebenezer Creek.

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