Working inside the plant, they had what you call a paint room. We had the white or the brown paint, but they spilled so much of it, they'd have to come back in with that solvent. Then they'd just spray it all over in there to get the paint off everything. Well, it went down the drain. And that solvent we'd use by the 55-gallon drums, by the shift.
They had one bay in there, this solvent was so bad, if you crossed the room, by the time you got to the end of the room, you were higher than a kite. It was just a fume, a fog. That's how it'd eat that paint up. Then they had another kind of acid that was called Okite. I got it in my eyes and ended up over at the hospital once. It went down the drain. All of it went into the ponds. All that went into the holding ponds. That was in that first lagoon. Then all of your oils and stuff like that, that oil skim never came off the ponds, hardly. This was all above ground. This was a block building, right beside what we called the press. But I run a heater treater back then, which was right down from it, and you could slip right through the paint room.
Okite was probably the worse one of them all; it was some kind of bad acid. It would eat up that board off the dryer doors. It was bad stuff. The oils that spilled were all sent down the drain, no matter what.
Then I moved out to the Service Crew. We'd have big spills like linseed oil. We had lot of big spills of that stuff. We had some other big spills out there, out at the chip pile. They'd shovel up all you could, and there was a dump there in the northeast corner. What drainage was there went to the ponds. Asphalt, we'd have spills of that, for that old black board. That was a type of insulation board. That's about all I can think of right now on the inside of the plant.
The messed up pieces of board all went to the landfill. I buried at least 20 dump truck loads a week. Probably about 2 pallets on each dump truck . . . two or three. Some of it was that asphalt board, finished, but the saws had cut it all wrong. So they'd send it all down there. I'd have mountains of it, and the boss would set it on fire and say something, the truck had set it on fire, then we'd spend weeks out there fighting that fire.
They'd dump 55-gallon drums of stuff, I don't know what was in them, but they've got it buried out there. And I'd have to be burying those boards out there, and I'd tear the drums open, you know, and then, if it caught fire, some of it would go up like sticks of dynamite. It had to be some kind of solvent. Or paint. There was lots of paint drums out there, and the paint would get hard, like half a drum of hard paint, they'd put it out there. They never hauled anything off; they always just buried it there.
I couldn't tell you how many drums of junk, hundreds, thousands, crushed drums, torn up, burnt, they throwed it in there, and I was supposed to bury it. Then, when they caught on fire, I had to use what stuff I had back there behind it to push over that fire to snuff it out.
The settling ponds never went dry. They stayed full. I saw some hogs come across the ponds once; they came out, they were greasy, slick. There were six of them. There was snouts coming toward me, and I said, "What was that?" I was running a big track hoe. They come out right beside that track hoe, six of the biggest hogs I'd ever seen. Why they were swimming across it, I'll never know.
We buried all that stuff in the dust pile. I was the one that started that dust pile, and it became a mountain. They reused it somewhere. They used it for fuel, is what it was. They used a big screen to get all the steel out of it. And I know there were drums in that, that was crushed, tore up, you name it. That dust pile had penta (sodium pentachlorapheanate) and stuff in it, and it set there for years. We started the dust pile in about 1978. It might have been 1979.
They released every day, cuz those ponds were full, every day. There ain't no telling what all was down there. There's everything from acids to solvents, gasoline leaks, oil, paint. Paint went down there big time. There was a boy we called Cowboy, he's so screwed up because of the paint. We caught him in there riding a 55-gallon drum, and started calling him Cowboy. We had to drag him out of there, that's how bad that solvent was. They'd just pour it out in 5 gallon buckets and throw it on the floor. Use a mop. They didn't care if people got burned up or not, that's the way it was back then. I was trying to think of some of that other stuff they used.
McCurtain County is number one in poverty and number three in unemployment. School-wise, they rank right there on the bottom. So what has Weyerhaeuser done? It's been this way for 40 years. They keep talking about what Weyerhaeuser's done for this county; they ain't done much.
They used all kinds of glue. We just covered the piles up with old board. I just kept making mounds, is all I was doing. There wasn't any kind of protection, above or below these piles of stuff. We'd dig into the ground a few times and bury drums, you know. Put drums in the ground. Some of that board went over into the ponds. Our trucks would get down in there and whatever fell off by the ponds, they just told me to push it off into the ponds. There were drums floating all over in the ponds. That was no big deal there.
I done all the dirt work, all the digging and pushing. Everything rusted real bad down there. I worked fires. Purple K was a fire retardant. And Ansel. We sprayed diesel to kill all of the stuff out of the fences. Drums and drums of diesel. We didn't separate anything to keep stuff from having chemical reactions. Everything just went in together. I imagine that's what was mixing up, and catching fire. It'd get so hot down in the ground. Spontaneous combustion. And I was there, working the dust pile. Then there were several big ponds. There were three big ponds and four other ponds that had aerators in them. This was all waste. I worked in the old plant. It wouldn't have been 50 yards from the gate to the door.
A bunch of those boys died. Cancer, as far as I know.
Kenneth S. Joiner Jr.