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While Off Topic, Mercury Pollution Highlights Public Hearing
by Ashley Murphy

Friday, December 3, 2010

A public hearing was held yesterday afternoon to obtain public comments about the Industrial Development Board issuing Olin Chemicals tax exempt recovery zone facility bonds, which could potentially total $41 million.

Olin's facility is located at 786 Lower River Road in Charleston, TN. The company is seeking these funds to do some reinvesting, which could potentially expand operations and create more jobs. Tisdale stated that there was no obligation of the county, city or state and the bonds are not paid with taxes. "No tax dollars are at risk," he said.

Suzanne Wisdom, one concerned resident, made a prepared statement which depicted Olin's Mercury levels in the river. Based on her research, Wisdom said that Olin is number 1 in the the state for Mercury pollution, putting out 1,200 pounds of Mercury per year, and she would like to see that money being used to convert to Mercury-free technology. "I can't imagine they have anything more important to take care of than this."

Cassie Yost, another resident in attendance, agreed with Wisdom and took it a step further by saying there should be stipulations upon issuance of the bonds to make the Mercury-free transition the priority.

Melissa Hoffer voiced her concerns, as well. While she agreed with the other ladies about the Mercury, her main concern was for the children. Hoffer is a Special Education teacher at Cleveland High School. She stated the Autism rate in Cleveland is at one of the highest points ever and such disabilities have been linked to Mercury exposure. She asked that the board look into the future at the possible number of children that will be coming into the county; the current number of children with disabilities could triple if the matter isn't taken care of, she reiterated.

At times, the conversations surrounding the Mercury output became heated. Doug Berry, Vice President of Economic Development, Gary Farlow, Chamber of Commerce President, and Tom Tisdale, legal counsel for the Industrial Development Board made it clear to everyone in attendance that the board had no control over the environmental part of Olin and asked the audience repeatedly to stick to the topic of the public hearing. It became known that potential transitioning of the entire Charleston Olin plant to Mercury-free technology could cost in excess of $100 million and that was the current reasoning for not taking action; the company simply can't afford it at this time.

Those of you who wished you could attend, but were unable, Tom Tisdale will be receiving written comments until Monday, December 6th. Please call the Chamber of Commerce at 423-472-6587 to get direction as to where to send your comments.