From a distance, the inland marsh a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean in Brunswick, Georgia, looks like a broad, green mat broken by silvery threads of meandering rivers and creeks. There’s cordgrass four feet tall, and sea daisies that add a splash of starburst color.
The marsh is home to shrimp, blue crab and sea trout, and it’s the nesting site of Great Egrets. Bottlenose dolphins inhabit the nearby Turtle/Brunswick River Estuary in Glynn County.
But looks can be deceiving.
Beneath the bucolic green expanse, the water and sediment contain toxic mercury and PCBs from the now closed LCP Chemical plant, which produced chlorine gas, hydrogen gas, hydrochloric acid and other caustic chemicals from 1955 to 1994, at what has since been declared a Superfund hazardous waste site, managed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The shrimp, crab and sea trout are tainted by the contaminants, putting local residents who still fish in the waters at risk for cancer, liver and kidney damage, according to a federal health assessment of the site.
Back in 2010, a researcher found “extremely high concentrations” of persistent organochlorine contaminants (POCs) in the local bottlenose dolphin population, with LCP Chemical and other nearby Superfund sites considered potential sources of the contamination.
With climate change a leading issue in Georgia’s two closely watched Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, the effects of a warming planet directly threaten LCP Chemical and 15 other Superfund sites in the state. They could be potentially affected by intensified hurricanes, flooding, sea level rise or wildfires.
Photo Credit: NOAA