County loses ‘good neighbor’ in IP

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

It’s hard to overestimate the impact of International Paper’s closing &045; but one overlooked area as we suffer the loss of jobs and income might be emergency response.

In addition to losing the mill, Natchez and Adams County have lost the hazardous materials team at IP, which helped our region be prepared for potential disasters.

Up to 90 IP workers served the plant and the county with the haz-mat team. They were on call to respond not only when the mill itself had a problem but when the county had a problem. They were, as county Civil Defense Director George Souderes said, &uot;a good neighbor.&uot;

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The good news is that IP has donated much of its equipment to Natchez so that the county and city can form their own hazardous materials team.

And across the river in Vidalia, La., firefighters there have already been training to respond to emergencies involving hazardous materials.

At this time in America’s history, we can’t afford to be without a team trained to deal with such events. Homeland security funds are paying for some of the cost of training and equipment, but local fire departments are having to make up for other needs with other grand funds.

It’s easy to think that because extensive emergencies are rare firefighters simply sit around waiting for something to happen. In reality they are always training for what they hope never comes.