About 100 area residents are asking a federal court to take action against Wilbros in regards to odor emanating from the facility in a lawsuit filed last week.
Toccoa Attorney Alton Adams filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Gainesville against Wilbros and associated defendants on Friday and provided a copy of that lawsuit to AM 630 WNEG News.
Adams said the primary goal is to make the odor stop, whatever that takes.
“We do want to shut them down until they can comply with all state and federal laws and until the odor is eliminated,” said Adams. “Now if this means that Wilbros cannot process their products here, cannot recycle the products that are coming in, Wilbros will have to find another place to manufacture and conduct their operations.”
The suit alleges that the Rose Lane facility is violating the federal Air Quality and Emissions Limitations Act by being a major source of one or more hazardous air pollutants listed in the act.
Also, the suit alleges that the odors are a nuisance under state law, stating the odors from Wilbros are noxious and are interfering with the health, safety, and welfare, along with the peace, comfort and convenience of the plaintiffs.
Finally, the suit alleges trespass, stating that the plaintiffs have never authorized the intrusion of these odors onto their properties and adding that the trespass by these odors causes damage to the plaintiffs through property value loss, mental injury, health issues, and injury to their peace and happiness.
Some of the claims closely mirror those made in the other civil suit filed against Wilbros in Superior Court by the Stephens County Board of Commissioners and others.
However, Adams noted that there are differences.
First, he pointed out that this suit is filed strictly by a group of individuals.
“Individuals can prove damages and injury far easier than can a body like the Board of Commissioners or the City Commissioners,” said Adams. “It is also important to be able to show damages and we can do that here.
Second, Adams said the federal nature of this suit is a major difference.
“Quite frankly, the Federal Courts, particularly since we are alleging violations of the Emissions Control Standards, a federal act, have far more authority and willingness, if you will to make sure the law is properly complied with in the future and to address problems that are now occurring and have occurred in the past,” said Adams.
The suit asks the court to grant an order requiring Wilbros to stop operation until it can operate without emitting odors harmful to the Plaintiffs and can operate in compliance with the Air Quality and Emissions Limitations Act.
In addition, the suit asks the court to grant each plaintiff compensatory damages in an amount not less than $75,000 and punitive damages to each plaintiff not less than $100,000, as well as attorney’s fees.
Adams said he is doing this out of a concern for the community.
“I have practiced law for the last 40 years, but the last three years I have been disabled because of an illness,” said Adams. “I read the reports in The Toccoa Record and heard the reports on WNEG about how things were proceeding in the Stephens Superior Court litigation. Quite honestly, I did not see it going anywhere and when I recovered from my illness, I had several people ask me if I would file a separate lawsuit in federal court.”
Adams said he is confident and feels this suit in federal court was necessary to achieve a satisfactory conclusion.
He went on to say that in the near future, he will also file a motion for a preliminary injunction to shut Wilbros down pending a trial on the suit.