Dock Fire Violates Environmental Regulations

A new development along the Ogeechee River is causing headaches, literally. Yesterday, crews clearing land for a condo near the Cove in Richmond Hill set fire to an old barge dock coated in a chemical that's not supposed to burn.

Creasote is a tar-like substance used to coat the pilings to keep them from rotting in the water and state officials say yesterday's fire broke several environmental regulations.

Neighbors were trying to have a sense of humor about the acrid, smoky smell. But in reality, they're pretty angry.

"When they started this project, I was concerned about the impact on the Ogeechee River," said Angie Foss of Richmond Hill. "Now I'm concerned about the impact on my health."

Foss says the creosote-laced smog has been wafting through the neighborhood since early Monday morning. "What you see is nothing compared to what you smell. The smell will choke you, give you a headache."

Firefighters weren't sure what to do with the fire, and waited several hours for the state's Environmental Protection Division to give them the okay to try and put it out.

"I didn't see yesterday, so I don't know how big, how much material they have burnt," said Michelle Cortez with the EPD. "It's small now, it should be little impact to the Ogeechee River."

Cortez says she doesn't expect any fish kills, but she's asking the Coast Guard to issue a situation report for boaters downstream since the dock fire will put quite a bit of debris in the river.

Cortez says if the smoke starts blowing towards people's houses, they should stay inside and make sure all the doors and windows are closed. She's still trying to figure out exactly who set the fire and can't start thinking about penalties until that's determined.

The maximum fine they'll be facing is $100,000.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com