The Forstmann site: Its past and future
• Property could house sewage or grease treatment, or possibly biodiesel production facilities
By Jessica Newberry
Just a few miles outside Louisville sits a 400-acre tract of land that divides debates into two camps, its history and its future.
Developers are excited about several possible industrial prospects they say are already looking at the site and the jobs and tax benefits these industries could bring. Others point to the property's sordid environmental past and question whether or not the issues have truly been addressed.
The property owners say they have spent the better part of five years cleaning up the problems and now, they believe it's time to let the old Forstmann site's massive waste water treatment facility go back into operation and help draw industry.
The property itself
Originally home to a broadcloth manufacturing facility and then a textile finishing plant, the 400-acre tract is equipped with 146,000 square feet of industrial space that was constructed in 1962 and run by J. P. Stevens. The $4.5 million waste water treatment facility, constructed on the site by J.P. Stevens in 1983, exceeds the capacity of all of Jefferson County’s water treatment systems combined at a daily capacity of four million gallons.
Its possible future
Forstmann & Company purchased the plant in 1985 and operated it until January 1999 when the company closed it, filing for bankruptcy later in the year.
Along with winning countless awards during Forstmann’s operation, some of which are still on display in the water treatment facility's laboratory, the plant boasts back-up pumps and generators throughout the facility as well as a six million BTU gas water heater. It also has a 100-acre hay field approximately two miles from the Ogeechee River at the north end of the property that is fully equipped with seven monitor test wells and an irrigation system for land application of waste from the treatment facility.
Flint Logistics purchased the property in 2001 for $202,000 and, approximately two months ago, the waste water treatment facility was put through a complete test run funded by a site assessment grant that Jefferson County received, according to Westberry.
“Everything is working smoothly and ready to go,” he said.
After revealing its plans for the old Forstmann site to Jefferson County’s Board of Commissioners, Flint Logistics offered a tour of the property on Monday, July 3.
The site's environmental history
Along with an overview of the site, Charles Westberry, co-owner of Flint Logistics Management, LLP of Macon, gave insight into environmental remediation that has been done since they purchased the property and a more detailed discussion of the plant's possible futures.
During the tour, Westberry referenced several possible uses for the property, including a septage treatment plant, an ethanol/biodiesel production plant that would treat restaurant grease, or renting or leasing space in the factory to one or more other businesses.
For the last five years Westberry and his associates have been working to address several environmental issues involving the site.
Over the years, the discovery of asbestos in the facility in addition to water and soil contamination has earned the Forstmann site a place on the Hazardous Site Inventory (HSI).
Flint Logistics says that the property is now ready to reach its full potential again after receiving over $1 million in environmental remediation.
“We’re very satisfied with where we are today,” Westberry said. “We have done asbestos and soil remediation, water testing, building clean up and added new test wells, and we have spent as much of this money as possible in Jefferson County. We believe in supporting the community.”
Flint’s efforts to correct the site’s problems include having all asbestos containing material (ACM) removed from the plant and installing four new test wells. Over 100 tons of soil has also been taken from the site to a hazardous waste landfill after Westberry claims silos containing lint from Forstmann’s wool-dying process began leaking rain water that had mixed with the lint.
“Right now, this place is clean,” Westberry said. “I would drink the water right out of the river if I were thirsty.”
Those skeptical of the site's readiness to reopen point to its history, the results of a phase one study and possible contamination.
EPD is not ready
At a February 2000 meeting, the Development Authority of Jefferson County (DAJC) agreed to attempt to purchase the Forstmann property to use as a speculative building and possible industrial park after a site assessment was conducted at the expense of the DAJC. The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment study was performed in December 1999 by Highland Engineering of Dunwoody in an effort to attract Crider Poultry to the site.
The study found significant amounts of confirmed and suspected ACM in floor tiles, roof insulation, corrugated exterior siding and insulation on pipes and boilers throughout the plant. Highland engineers also said that documentation from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) showed that, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, J. P. Stevens operated a solid waste landfill on the west side of the property. However, there was no available information concerning the contents and monitoring of the landfill or the plant’s wastewater treatment facility.
According to the Highland study, the plant operated a wastewater treatment facility for sanitary and industrial wastewater and held active permits for wastewater discharge to the Ogeechee River on the south side of the property and also for sludge application on fields on the north end of the property. This is no longer an issue, according to Westberry, because as long as the facility is operating as a wastewater treatment plant, the EPD will not allow any discharge into the river.
A general slope of the property southwest toward the Ogeechee River was noted in the study with an average grade of three to five percent. Two streams run through the property toward the Ogeechee and provide the water flow for the wastewater treatment process into the holding ponds. Although no construction information was available for these ponds, Highland engineers suggested that the age of the ponds, over 30 years, indicates that they are likely unlined. However, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Forstmann site is not located in a significant groundwater recharge area and is thought to have a low groundwater pollution susceptibility.
The Phase I study found no evidence of chemical spills, seeps and leachate, or dead or distressed vegetation. However, Highland engineers noted potential contamination of the plant’s solid waste landfill, wastewater treatment facility, dry cleaning solvents/parts washing solvents and above ground storage tanks (AST).
In January 2001, an accident report was filed by Jefferson County Marshal Alan Wasden stating that untreated wastewater was discharging through a breach in the earthen dam separating two of Forstmann’s wastewater treatment ponds. Georgia EPD Environmental Engineer Steve Liotta accompanied Wasden to the site to obtain water samples from pond #1. These samples indicated an unexplained presence of two hazardous chemicals, trichloroethene and cis-1-2-dichloroethene, that exceed EPA established safety levels. The presence of trace amounts of three other hazardous chemicals and nine metals were reported, including a pH level of 4.0 which indicated a level of acidity in the pond in violation of Forstmann’s current wastewater discharge permit.
Additional water samples were taken in late March 2001 from locations upstream and downstream from the plant and from a small field south of the treatment ponds. Samples were also taken from two private wells near the plant. These tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
EPD’s Environmental Engineer Trey Cantrell evaluated the site as part of the Hazardous Sites Response Program in April 2001, and it was later placed on the Hazardous Site Inventory (HSI). The following month, the Georgia Attorney General’s office issued claims for an estimated $450,000 in clean- up costs and $1,400 in air emission permit fees to the Forstmann site in response to the ongoing contamination controversy.
According to Westberry, EPD was scheduled to review the plant's current status on the HSI list Monday, July 10.
David Reuland, a program manager for EPD's Hazardous Sites Response Program, said Tuesday that the meeting Flint had requested had to be rescheduled. On Jan. 9, 2006, Reuland said EPD issued a notice of deficiency on Flint's compliance status report and requested that it submit one by April. In February Flint requested that they be given until September to submit the report, he said.
However, Reuland suggested that he did not believe the site would be ready to come off the HSI list for some time.
"We have not plans to take them off the HSI list at this time," he said.
Plant could treat septage or restaurant grease, owners say
By Jessica Newberry
After purchasing the old Forstmann site for only a fraction of its potential industrial value and investing $1 million in clean-up Flint Logistics Management, LLP, is now looking for a way to get the facility productive again.
At the June 28 Jefferson County Board of Commissioners meeting, Flint proposed a resolution which suggested the plant would be used for septage treatment.
Currently, licensed septic tank pumping businesses in Jefferson County take waste to a facility in Richmond County, according to Jefferson County Health Department Environmental Specialist III Belinda Sheram.
“We have issued an average of 50 permits over the past 10 years for septic tanks,” Sheram said.
A good maintenance practice is to have septic tanks pumped every five years, but most people do not have them pumped unless there is a problem, according to Sheram.
“I don’t believe there would be enough waste county-wide to support having a treatment facility of our own,” she said.
Flint owners have suggested that a new law requiring counties to designate a specific site for septage treatment may spur growth for this industry but would require patronage septage haulers from surrounding counties.
However, in a July 3 tour of the old Forstmann plant, Flint co-owner Charlie Westberry revealed that septage treatment was not the only option under consideration.
“This is one of the most modern waste-water treatment plants in rural America,” said Westberry. “We have several options. There is a lot of interest in biodiesel and ethanol production in Louisville, or we could ultimately have five businesses in the plant by separating the plant into sections.”
With rising fuel costs and diminishing natural resources, interest in biodiesel production is growing because of its lower emissions in comparison with petroleum diesel and because it is made from domestic, renewable resources.
Biodiesel is produced from spent fat, oil and grease such as that found in restaurant grease traps through a chemical process called transesterification. This process separates the glycerin from the fat, leaving methyl esters also known as biodiesel and glycerin, which can be used in the manufacturing of soap and other products.
Because of its poor solubility in water and its tendency to separate from the liquid solution, used restaurant grease is not treated in domestic wastewater treatment facilities and must be taken to specialized treatment centers.
“Across the state, there is a great need for grease disposal,” Sheram said.
A third possibility for use of the Forstmann property is that of an industrial park. The 146,000 square foot industrial building has a capability of housing up to five different businesses, Westberry said. Because of the original design of the plant, fire doors may be closed to create separate spaces for companies.
The wastewater treatment facility with a capacity of four million gallons a day will also help to draw industry, according to Westberry. The facility will offer a place to treat domestic waste as well as a possible industrial waste treatment system if needed.
“Flint Logistics has been good about working with the Development Authority to try to bring good industry prospects to the area,” said Jefferson County Economic Developer Tom Jordan. “This is an asset to the region and is something that the county could not afford to build. One of my goals is to develop this into something to bring jobs and investment to the county.”
While ways to bring new jobs into the county are always being sought, some have concerns about the history of the site and Flint’s unclear plans.
“Since the Forstmann site is a hazardous waste site, and the owners have not provided any official plans for their use of the site, it would be irresponsible of the county commissioners to approve the resolution,” said Chandra Brown, Riverkeeper/Executive Director of Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper. Locating a company to import human or commercial septage on a site that is already leaching hazardous chemicals could really cause problems on the Ogeechee.”
Commissioner decisions will be made in next week's primary
By Jessica Newberry
On Tuesday, July 18, the General Primary elections will be held statewide with possibilities of transforming Georgia’s current political scene as well as that of local government.
Seats on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners will be decided next week for District 1 and District 3 as no Republican candidates qualified in April.
Democratic incumbent Gonice Davis, a 57-year-old school bus driver, will go up against Don E. Hall, 67, whose occupation is listed as banking/flower shop. Both candidates are from Wadley.
Incumbent Sidney Norton, 63, will face opposition from Dave Hastings, 53, for the District 3 commissioner’s seat. Norton’s occupation is listed as sales, lumber and hardware, and Hastings is a service manager. Both candidates are from Wrens.
Incumbent Sonny Perdue will compete against Ray McBerry in the Republican primary while Bill Bolton, Cathy Cox, Mac McCarley and Mark Taylor vie for the Democratic seat in the governor’s race.
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For Lieutenant Governor, Casey Cagle and Ralph Reed will compete on the Republican ticket while Greg K. Hecht, Griffin Lotson, Jim Martin, Steen “Newslady” Miles and Rufus O. Terrill contend for the Democratic candidacy.
The primary election for the position of Secretary of State will pit Charlie Bailey, Karen Handel, Eric Martin and Bill Stephens against one another in the Republican primary and Gail Buckner, Darryl Hicks, Scott Holcomb, Angela Moore, Walter Ray and Shyam Reddy in the Democratic race.
Republicans Gary Black, Robert Hampton “Bob” Greer, Brian Kemp and Deanna Strickland will compete in the primary for an opportunity to run against Democratic incumbent Tommy Irvin for the position of Commissioner of Agriculture in November.
State School Superintendent primary races will include Danny J. Carter and incumbent Kathy Cox for the Republican ticket and Carlotta Harrell and Denise Majette for the Democratic ticket.
Brent Brown and Chuck Scheid will go against each other in the Republican primary for Commissioner of Labor with the winner going up against incumbent Michael "Mike" Thurmond.
Two Public Service Commissioner seats will be up for grabs with Republicans Chuck Eaton and Mark Parkman vying for a position against Democratic incumbent David L. Burgess in November and Republicans Newt Nickell and incumbent Stan Wise competing for a spot in the November race against Democrat Dawn Randolph.
All eight polling stations in Jefferson County and all four in Glascock County will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18.
Jefferson County voters may cast an “advanced-voting” ballot through this Friday, July 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Jefferson County Office of the Registrar, located in the rear of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce building at 302 East Broad Street in Louisville. Glascock County voters may do the same at the Glascock County Extension Office at 45 East Main Street. Proper identification is required, but no reason is needed to vote early. Absentee ballots are also available from the Jefferson County Office of the Registrar and the Glascock County Extension Office and must be returned to that office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18.