Allison Ericson, Valdosta Today News Director:
QUITMAN –Brooks County residents have become increasingly frustrated with the noise pollution caused by Rayonier Corporation’s chip mill.
Brooks County Development Authority originally placed the chip mill outside of the vacant industrial park so that it would not deter other businesses from locating there. The BCDA built the mill as an incentive to bring more jobs to Brooks County.
Arthur Morin, Brooks County resident said, “It hasn’t created many jobs in industry for Quitman, but what it has created is a tremendous amount of noise pollution.”
The mill has not only become a nuisance to potential businesses but surrounding neighborhoods as well.
Nine months ago, Harley Bodine, Brooks County resident created a petition and a video in hopes of receiving the mill’s attention. Rayonier Corporation began exploring the mill’s options towards decreasing noise pollution after speaking to multiple property owners surrounding the mill.
“They’ve concluded all of the studies, now they have to do some engineering modeling to achieve what we need to achieve,” Bodine said. “There are two options, one of them is to enclose the entire property, the other is just to enclose the process that is creating all the noise.”
In addition to the chip mill, the BCDA is now negotiating an option contract with a company to put a pellet plant inside of the industrial park. The pellet plant will not be as loud as the chip mill, but the two plants together could potentially cause more issues for residents.
“Why is it a problem? It is huge, it generates a tremendous amount of truck traffic because they are constantly bringing product in and out, that truck traffic is a nuisance in itself,” Morin said.
The industrial park originally cost around five million to build and if the pellet plant does move into the park the BCDA plans to extend the plant which will cost an additional 1.2 million.
“What’s being done is public money is being wasted, public land is being thrown away, and people’s property values are being ruined,” Morin said. “In a county like Brooks, most of the tax burden falls on residential property owners.”
The city has now passed a new zoning ordinance for the industrial park and has adopted a new noise ordinance. However, the noise ordinance does not apply to the chip mill because it is located on county land, not city.
“We have invested about four or five million dollars total of county, state, federal tax payer’s money in this industrial park which is still empty, and if it ever does operate it is going to destroy property values in our town,” Morin said.
The Rayonier Corporation is still exploring the mill’s options and the pellet plant decision has been extended to a later date.