Local News

Investigation Indicates N.C. Weyerhauser Plant 'Indeterminate Health Hazard'

Posted October 21, 2003

— The

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

has designated Weyerhauser's Pulp and Paper Mill in Plymouth, N.C., as an "indeterminate public health hazard."

As a result, the agency has recommended more study to determine if hydrogen sulfide in the air is affecting public health around the plant.

The determination is based on the results of a preliminary investigation of air emissions from the plant, which were released Tuesday. The investigation was based on computer modeling data.

ATSDR, a public health agency of the

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

conducted the investigation at the request of the

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

NCDHHS provided the federal agency with data from emissions modeling in the area. Using that modeling data, ATSDR found that residents living around the site may be exposed to ambient air concentrations that exceed health-protective levels.

According to ATSDR, monitoring of actual air contaminants is needed to determine the potential exposures to hydrogen sulfide and the health risks to the community.

NCDHHS has asked ATSDR's Exposure Investigation Section for assistance in conducting that monitoring.

ATSDR also recommended a review of the entire Weyerhaeuser Plymouth site to determine if there is a need to monitor air emissions of chemicals other than hydrogen sulfide that could negatively affect public health in the surrounding area.

Weyerhaeuser, the local health department, NCDHHS and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will work cooperatively with ATSDR on the coming investigation.

The

North Carolina Environmental Management Commission,

which adopts most state environmental regulations, is considering strengthening North Carolina's existing standard limit for hydrogen sulfide.

The EMC has scheduled two public hearings on the new hydrogen sulfide rules:

  • Oct. 30, 7 p.m., Pitt Community College, Winterville.
  • Nov. 5, 7 p.m., Buncombe Technical Community College, Enka.
  • Short-term exposure to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide in air may result in bronchial obstruction in asthmatics leading to increased asthma symptoms as well as visual disturbances and eye and nose irritation.

    The public health consultation describing the results of the Weyerhaeuser site investigation is available for

    public review online

    and at the Washington County Library, which is located at 201 East Third Street in Plymouth.

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