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County, cities seeking answers, solutions to DRT odors
Jan. 4 DRT Tour
Local officials toured the DRT Springfield facility on Jan. 4. Participating in the tour were Springfield Mayor Barton Alderman, Springfield City Manager Matt Morris, Effingham County Manager Tim Callanan, Effingham County Commissioners Phil Kieffer and Jamie Deloach, Effingham County Schools Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford, and several school principals among others. (Submitted photo.)

By Barbara Augsdorfer, Editor for the Effingham Herald


Effingham County residents have taken to social media to report noxious odors allegedly coming from the DRT America plant near Ebenezer Road and Hwy. 21 in Springfield on the border with Rincon. Residents are also reporting the “where” and “when” of the odor nuisance on the Coastal Health District and EPA websites. A poll on the “Stop the Toxins in Ebenezer” Facebook page lists the odor smelling mostly like ammonia, sulfur or propane, cat litter box, among others. The poll can be found here:

Residents complain about “nauseating smell,” “watering eyes,” “sore throat,” and “coughing.”

Officials from DRT claim the smell is not coming from their facility, but they’ve contracted with Trinity Engineering to monitor air quality around the plant.

“Trinity is a leader in air quality consulting, and will work with a leading odor laboratory, St. Croix Sensory, to assess potential odor sources on and around DRT’s 85 acres,” said a DRT spokesperson on Jan. 19. “These monitoring programs take time, and are impacted by weather conditions, so we are all being patient as Trinity begins its work. DRT is committed to share any findings as soon as they are provided.”

DRT added that the air quality studies will be ongoing for the next few months. Updated information about DRT and Trinity’s findings are available at The public can also email DRT with concerns at

Elected officials from Effingham County and the City of Springfield, citing complaints from their constituents, have reached out to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Georgia Environmental Division (EPD) to find out the source or cause, and possible solutions.

DRT America did report a spill at the site last fall.

“In September, pretreated sulfate turpentine (PST) leaked from a faulty seal. The PST was immediately and fully contained at the site in a concrete containment area. The PST remained in the containment area for 72 hours until the tank was repaired, at which time the PST was pumped back into the tank and used in the plant’s process,” said Hugh Welsh, president of dsm-firmenich, parent company of DRT North America.

“We have an air quality issue, which EPD has been studying there. To my knowledge (as of) today (Jan. 19), there's been nothing alarming about the air quality from a health standpoint per EPD. I'm strictly relying on that,” said Phil Keiffer, District 5 Effingham County Commissioner.

Keiffer added while the air quality may be within healthy limits, the odor is another problem.

“The EPD has been on site. I've talked to them,” Keiffer said. “They're continuing to monitor air quality, which is really from a health standpoint, not odor. EPA doesn't regulate odor. That's an important point.”

Keiffer added the only thing local jurisdictions can do regarding odor is to make the offending party aware of local ordinances regarding public nuisance.

Springfield does have an ordinance on its books regarding odors as a nuisance:

“4.30 - Nuisances. Nothing shall be allowed on the premises in any district which would in any way be offensive or obnoxious by reason of the emission of odors, liquids, gas, dust, smoke, vibration or noise; nor shall anything be placed, constructed or maintained that will in any way constitute a nuisance to adjacent property owners, residents, or to the community. All uses must satisfactorily comply with the requirements of the State Department of Natural Resources as required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.”

Complaints started in 2017

The City of Springfield issued a statement last week admitting to a wait-and-see period after attorneys for the city and DRT communicated regarding mitigation plans for the smell. The City of Springfield stated that the smell is not coming from the city’s wastewater treatment plant which is nearby to the DRT facility.

Residents have expressed frustration on social media regarding DRT’s actions, or lack thereof.

“DRT has been claiming to be ‘fixing things’ since 2017 when the noxious fumes complaints began pouring in,” said Nikki Carangelo of Rincon.

“We have to hold industries to the same, or even higher standards, than we ask of private citizens,” Carangelo continued.

“A private citizen would be fined $1,000 if they created a nuisance at their home. DRT has been allowed to blatantly break our nuisance ordinance for eight years,” Carangelo said. “We cannot allow industry to affect the quality of life for thousands of residents because it’s a double standard.”

At the Rincon City Council meeting Jan. 22, Councilmember Mona Underwood proposed, and the council approved, a resolution to support the City of Springfield’s assertion against DRT.

“I've been dealing with the DRT issue for years and years. When they first tried to open, they had a gasket leak that completely overran that whole community over there,” Underwood began. “And as a (school) bus driver, my kids were trapped on a school bus. It was one of the worst odors you've ever smelled in your life. When we got to the school, they were ushering kids off the bus to try and get them into the building. It was so bad.”

That incident was several years ago, according to Underwood, but “Here we are five, six years later, still dealing with it,” she added.

“There's not a lot we can do legally. But this is just the stand of solidarity in our county," Underwood said. “We’ll tell Springfield that we're with them. And so that's why I make a recommendation that we accept this resolution.”

Effingham County School District has also weighed in on the odor issue.

ECSD Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford said in a statement, “I met with the leadership team at DRT to share our concerns of the odor and although the reports we receive indicate the air quality is within the legal parameters, the odor in the district's opinion does not create a positive quality of life for our school staff, students, and community members,” Dr. Ford’s statement said. “The school and district have received a few calls regarding the odor. Although the latest report indicates the air quality is within the legal parameters, ultimately, we want the smell to disappear.”

Rincon Councilmember Michelle Taylor concurred saying the smell has traveled down Ebenezer Road toward the historic Jerusalem Lutheran Church.

“My dad lives down Ebenezer past the (traffic) circle going toward the church, and you can smell it all the way down there,” Taylor said.

Rincon Councilmember Kevin Exley added that DRT is releasing the odors at night.

“People are telling me that they’re up; they’re on shift work, and the strongest odor is after midnight,’ Exley said.

A townhall meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 30, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the social hall at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 301 N. Columbia Ave., Rincon.