Abandoned toxic site yields more surprises

At an abandoned waste shipping depot in south Atlanta, six more human fetuses were found last month, bringing the total to eight. The site, located off Moreland Avenue, is home to about 13,000 containers of abandoned industrial and hazardous wastes.

Southeastern Research and Recovery, a company that was paid up to $1,000 per barrel to collect and dispose of wastes such as lead-contaminated soil and used machine oil, abruptly closed its doors in March. That left the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the bizarre and expensive burden of cataloging the abandoned waste.

In mid-November, an EPA investigator found half a dozen fetuses stored at the site. Weeks earlier, an investigator came across two fetuses and a placenta, mainly intact and floating in a five-gallon plastic bucket. Before that, agents found fetal pigs, cats, frogs and other animals.

An EPA agent says of the most recent discovery that one fetus "appeared to be about four months along," that all were packaged in formaldehyde, and that the DeKalb County medical examiner's office will dispose of them.

EPA spokesman Carl Terry confirmed the discovery.

So far, the EPA has no leads as to where the fetuses came from. But the agency hopes to determine their origin as investigators comb through paperwork in Southeastern Research's office.

The next step in the cleanup, according to EPA emergency response coordinator Bob Rosen, is to ask chemical companies and manufacturers whose waste ended up at the site to pay — a second time — for disposal of the barrels.

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