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June 5, 2003 Issue

In their memory...
In memory and honor of fallen soldiers members of the American Legion Post 229, members of the John Franklin Wren Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a number of county residents gathered Friday in observance of Memorial Day. Major Brad Haythorne (left) served as the guest speaker.

Landfill cell should be ready to accept trash soon

22,372 tons of sand being moved onto new liner

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The debate in Jefferson County over the future of the county landfill may not be over but the state of the new cell is virtually assured.

The new 2.7-acre cell should be ready to accept trash by the end of June providing that weather conditions are satisfactory, said county administrator Paul Bryan.

"This is the first large project I've been involved with in Jefferson County," he said. "It makes me happy to have this completed. I'm especially happy about the help provided by everyone involved in the project and the patience the citizens have shown."

Work has proceeded for several months to open the new cell. Most recently, the liner was covered with 22,372 tons of sand, comprising 1,212 dump truck loads.

Providing the anticipated timetable for accepting trash, Bryan said consulting engineers QORE Property Sciences should be able to furnish the county's other consultants, Chasman & Associates, with documentation that the cell is complete by June 6. EPD should be able to inspect the new cell by June 8 and the certification and drawings for the cell should go to EPD for approval by June 16.

Minor modification plans to amend the landfill Development and Operation Plan pertaining to the new cell and sediment pond will be sent by Chasman to EPD for approval by June 20. Bryan said he anticipated a response from EPD by June 23 and the availability for initial use of the new cell by June 25.

He added that Chasman will confer with EPD on the matter of expanding the old cell vertically.

The lifetime of the new cell is expected to be four to five years, about the same as the old cell, according to earlier statements by Chasman's Walt Sanders. The lifetime of the cells is radically different from what commissioners were told to expect at the time the landfill was being planned in the mid-1990s. Commissioner Tommy New has stated repeatedly that former engineering firm Moreland Altobelli and a now-deceased EPD official told commissioners the first cell would last 14 years. In reality, the cell lasted four and one-half years from its opening in January 1999. Though a number of problems have occurred since the opening that diminished the lifetime of the cell and though those problems have been rectified, Sanders nonetheless stated months ago that new cells would have a similar four to five year lifetime.

Officer's asbestos exposure wasn't filed

Former administrator says he never received any documentation of an asbestos exposure

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A discrepancy between a former Jefferson County official and a county employee related to exposure to asbestos calls into question the county's reporting system and could jeopardize a future health claim.

Information obtained from the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) under the Georgia Open Records Law pertaining to environmental issues at the former Forstmann property near Louisville, now owned by Flint Logistics, contained a report on a fire in a wooded area of the property on Feb. 27, 2002.

While working the fire and subsequent to it, two Georgia Forestry Commission Rangers and Jefferson County Marshal Alan Wasden, also a volunteer firefighter with the Louisville Fire Department, were exposed to what was later confirmed by EPD to be asbestos.

The exposure occurred after a fire crawler ruptured a number of bags containing the material while cutting a firebreak.

Documentation included in the open records request contained a report by Ranger Reggie Morgan citing the exposure, but no report by Wasden or Jefferson County was found.

Confirmed last week by Wasden and obtained under the Open Records law was a March 25, 2002 letter requesting that his immediate supervisor, former county administrator James Rogers, file a worker's compensation report on his behalf.

According to Wasden, the letter was submitted in person to Rogers. The letter cited tests of the material by EPD that confirmed that the material in the ruptured bags contained asbestos.

"The test samples of the suspected asbestos dump referred to in the officer's report dated 02/27/02 were positive. Attached is a copy of the results. Due to the accidental exposure of this material I request a worker's compensation report be filed on me," the report said.

Exposure to asbestos has long been a cause for a number of life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer, according to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Contacted May 29, Rogers confirmed that he and Wasden had discussed the situation relating to the confirmed asbestos on the Flint property and Wasden's exposure to it. Rogers said he would have needed something in writing from Wasden to file the report as his immediate supervisor.

"I told him if he needed to file a report to go ahead and do it," said Rogers. "He didn't lay anything on my desk and he never brought anything to us."

Rogers could offer no explanation as to why Wasden would fail to supply him with the documentation.

When contacted Monday, Wasden insisted that he did provide Rogers with a written request to file a report on his exposure to asbestos and would have had no reason not to file the request.

County Clerk Mary Lamb confirmed last week that the current Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) procedure for filing worker's compensation reports requires that the employee's supervisor submit the report. Lamb verified that Wasden had conferred with her about the proper procedure for reporting a worker's comp claim at the time he spoke with Rogers. An Open Records Law request of county files last week revealed that no report of Wasden's exposure had been filed by Rogers. The absence of any report in county files points to the fact that Wasden never provided a written request, said Rogers.

Worker's comp information posted at the county office in Louisville states that employees not filing required reports within 30 days of an incident may be excluded from future coverage.

Concerned about his future health status resulting from exposure to asbestos, Wasden said a failure to file a request with his immediate supervisor within the required 30-day period would make no sense, as it could jeopardize a claim if the exposure were to pose a health concern in the future, as is often the case with asbestos-related diseases.

Inquiries made to ACCG's claims office last week confirmed that no workers compensation report listing Wasden's exposure to asbestos had been submitted by Jefferson County.

Wasden said Monday that he had assumed that Rogers had filed the report last year and was only made aware of the discrepancy when informed by The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.

In a related matter, Ranger Reggie Morgan filed a lengthy report on the asbestos exposure experienced by himself and another ranger. Obtained under the Open Records Law, the February 2002 report states that the exposure occurred while the forestry unit and Louisville firefighters attempted to contain the woods fire. Bags containing what was later confirmed by EPD as asbestos-containing material were ruptured as the forestry bulldozer ran over them while cutting a firebreak. Wasden was exposed when he responded to Morgan's request to check out the material.

Flint co-owner Charles Westberry was informed by EPD in a March 27, 2002, letter that the various types of pipe insulation found in the woods contained asbestos. Westberry said recently that Flint did not know how or why the material was placed in the woods but that Flint contacted an asbestos abatement contractor immediately and had the material removed.

Glascock County holds annual Relay For Life this weekend

County's fourth annual Relay begins Friday at 6 p.m. at Brassell Park

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The American Cancer Society should have a special place in its heart for Glascock County. For all the fundraising events on the agency's behalf across America each year, none is more special than Glascock's Relay for Life fundraiser to support cancer research.

Event Chairman Gwyn Couch and Team Captain Coordinator Melissa Rogers said the significance of the annual event in Gibson this weekend is not whether Glascock retains its position as the #1 fundraising county per capita in the United States for the past three years. The true significance is much more personal.

"I'm amazed at the perseverance of our people," said Couch. "They keep doing a great job and supporting each other. Team support and community support always come through for this event and for a cure for cancer. We are a community working for a cure."

The first event of each Relay is considered the most important. It is during the survivor's walk that families, friends and even strangers assemble to honor cancer survivors as they take the first lap of the event. Later in the evening another ceremony, the lighting of the luminaries, will again honor both survivors and those who have passed away.

Other events this year, many with an emphasis on patriotism, will include the luminary service, baby stroller parade, talent show, softball tournament, scavenger hunt, pajama walk, live music, dancing and, of course, the event that defies description in civilized society: the Ms. Relay contest. Additional this year will be the on-site dedication of the new children's playground equipment.

Neither Couch nor Rogers could predict the outcome of the Relay other than to applaud the yearlong efforts of the five Relay teams and others who make the event happen.

"I've learned a lot from the other teams," said Rogers. "I'm here for them and we are all here for each other. The Relay has never been a competition between teams. The event is for the overall benefit of our community and the American Cancer Society. What we hope to see is good attendance and good support."

Glascock Relay corporate sponsors include Gibson Church of God, Gibson Health and Rehabilitation Center, Country Lane Rentals, Fellowship Baptist Church, Gibson Hardware, Heritage Construction Group, Inc., Euphrates Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Church, First State Bank, Usry's Auto Parts and Garage, Inc., Jefferson Energy, G. Ben Turnipseed, Inc/, Williams Farms, Gibson United Methodist Church, Badcock Furniture, Kitchens Grocery and First City Bank of Gibson. Advertising sponsors include WRDW-TV, WPEH radio and The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.

Glascock's 4th annual Relay for Life begins Friday at 6 p.m. at Brassell Park in Gibson and will continue until 7 a.m. Saturday.

Surviving cancer has always been a part of Chalker's life

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Kendall Chalker is a soft-spoken man. A lifelong resident of Glascock County, the 61 year-old Mitchell resident has known many people in this rural county in east central Georgia.

Though little change has occurred with the physical landscape where he lives, much has changed with the human landscape as a result of cancer. Chalker lost his mother to cancer when he was three years old. He also lost a grandfather to the disease. Through the years he has known others in his county of 2,556 people who have passed away from cancer.

The knowledge that he had colon cancer did not come until surgery was performed at McDuffie Hospital following an incident at Mitchell Baptist Church the week before Thanksgiving in 1996. He had been feeling tired and weak for some time. During the church service things began to go dark and he lost consciousness. He was taken to McDuffie Hospital where it was determined that he needed colon surgery. It was only after the surgery the next week that he learned of the presence of a malignant cancer.

Now seven years later, Chalker recalled the experience at the hospital and at the doctor's office in Augusta where he received chemotherapy once a week for the following year and in decreasing fashion for a total of five years. Taking time on a beautiful, breezy Saturday afternoon to talk about his experience with cancer, the soft-spoken Chalker thoughtfully recalled the events that took him from a Sunday service all the way through follow-up treatment that ended two years ago.

"Even before the surgery I was nervous because I knew something was wrong," he explained "After the surgery it was a shock to find out that it was cancer. But before the surgery and afterward, during treatment, I had an inner peace that I can't explain. I believe God kept me from worrying too much. The doctors did the surgery but God did the healing. Without my faith in God and without His help I wouldn't have recovered."

Chalker also spoke about some of the other events in life that so often pass before our eyes without notice. It was the conscious recognition of those things, the little things, which also helped him see life in a new light.

"It's the small things, the ordinary things, that you come to appreciate," he said with a kindhearted smile. "And I appreciated them more during the time I was in treatment and recovering. It was like things were more real than before. There is a purpose for the things we go through in life. I don't think we always know what all the purposes or reasons may be, but I do know that those times can make us stronger."

In recalling some of the small things, Chalker did not fail to recount the efforts and kindness afforded him by others. He spoke of the kindness and thoughtfulness of the church members and paramedics who responded when he lost consciousness during the church service. Also in his memory was the supportive nature of the various healthcare workers at McDuffie Hospital and at his visits for chemo in Augusta.

Now retired from a 34-year career with the Georgia Dept. of Archives, Chalker knows the history of his own life was altered in positive ways by his faith in God and through the ongoing advancements in cancer research. His participation in Glascock's Relay for Life fundraiser is a direct result of his own experience with cancer and the knowledge that the advances in cancer research benefited him.

"I help out any way I can," he said with thoughtful consideration. "I guess I owe them something and I want to do the best I can to help raise money to continue cancer research."

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