Digging Deeper: Merck cleanup - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: Merck cleanup

Over the next several months thousands of tons of construction debris and hazardous waste will be pulled from the Dougherty County Merck and Company plant. Some of that waste will end up in the local landfill, but the hazardous waste will be transported out of state.

To get there it will travel though many communities.

Merck and their contractors have been talking with fire officials and the EPD for months on how this clean up will go. They have the necessary permits and in as long as 18 months, the plant you see behind me will be nothing more than an empty field.

Debris from the former Merck and Company plant has already left the site and is being dumped here at the Dougherty County landfill.

"The majority of the waste we will receive is just straight construction and demolition debris that is clean not impacted with any chemicals," said Scott Addision, Dougherty County Solid Waste Director.

Digging deeper we've learned asbestos has been removed from the site and brought to the Dougherty County landfill which meets the landfills restrictions.

"Asbestos has to be brought in sealed bags, specially labeled and then to accept them in our land fill we have to in essence dig an area separate from our working space, dig a hole and place the bags in there and cover them immediately so we're not tearing the bags and causing the particles to become airborne," said Addison.

We questioned what's being done to ensure hazardous material won't end up in the local landfill. The responsibility ultimately falls to Merck's contractor Mactec who's handling the cleanup.

"The generator of the waste stream is required under federal and state law to do testing for materials generated and transported and ultimately disposed of in landfills and we will review their testing and protocols and we have an acceptance criteria that we have to fill out," said Addison.

The Department of Transportation will require all truck transporting materials be covered. Merck has been working for months with Fire and Emergency Management officials to develop the safest way to disassemble the former pharmaceutical manufacturing plant.

"Talked about the safety issues, how they would alert themselves is if there was an issue and how they would alert the public if there was something that got away from the plant," said Albany Fire and EMA Director James Carswell.

Most chemicals were purged from underground tanks years ago, those tanks were scrubbed, but firefighters are still concerned about a potential fire especially as systems are disabled.

"As they demolish the buildings they become unsafe, as they dismantle the protecting systems whether its fire, sprinkler systems, dilution systems, whatever systems they are, obviously they become more vulnerable for a fire," said Carswell.

We've learned hazardous materials will be transported to Alabama for disposal in a hazardous landfill there. It's got to be packaged correctly for transport across the state line, emergency officials are confident Merck's contractors can get the job done, safely and securely, because they're equipped to handle this type of demolition.

Dougherty County's landfill director tells me, they will be doing visual inspections at the landfill periodically to ensure what's coming into the land fill is debris that's approved.

Test samples of debris from the site will also be sent to the EPD in Atlanta. Those samples will continue for years after the demolition work is done and the site is cleared.

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