Despite the paper mill odors here in Johnsonburg, it still seems to be quite livable, yet I wonder about how the air pollution has affected me. I have COPD and CHF although in recent years it improved. I have lived in several places over the years and while J'burg is definitely the stinkiest, it is still fairly rural, surrounded by huge forests and the town itself, while it seems as though it has seen better days, seems it has alot of potential to it.
I see lots of homes that would cost so much more if located anywhere else. I wonder about how the town can come back to life and how to9 flourish here. I have a large hillside yard and want to get it cultivated and plant a vegetable garden next year. This year I did grow some small tomatoes and zucchini but the soil is rocky so I need to get a roto tiller in to turn it next spring.
When I arrived here with my sons in Apr 2011, we were full of energy and enthusiasm despite the occasional then frequent odors coming from the paper milll across the river. I bought and ionizing air conditioner that see,ms to help with the air and odor inside, but more and more so I didnt want to step outside unless I had a purpose.
I had a young family come from downstate to stay a few months but the kids kept getting sick .Then we all got bronchitis. Soon after they left and went back home. I started to get more leg and hip pain.My legs began to swell indicating my heart was acting up . After a few months, my legs stayed swollen every day and I went to the hospital and was admitted for CHF. I began taking water pills again, which worked fine in the past but now even with increased dosages I was putting on 19 lbs every day of water weight and then it would go down only to come back the next day. I would wake with my ankles looking normal but by the end of the day my legs were ballooned out. This continued the next 6 months til summer.Then it finally started to stay down however I also found I was beginning to put on weight that remained, so every time I would gain the 19 lbs I would drop maybe 12 and then it slowly crept up til I found by years end I had gained over 50 lbs. This has been an issue and is disturbing. My energy has dropped yet I find I cant sleep well as breathing is more difficult.
I have been to the doctors again and have developed joint problems in my hip and knees that are weakening me and making walking harder every day. My health has gotten worse since October. Now when I go out to the stores I find I can not walk around the entire store to do my marketing and often have to have my sons shop for me.
This paper mill seems to be working all the time but only certain days the odors are stronger. I notice often that on weekends, early in the mornings especially that the odors are stronger. One time I went to St Subois about 5am to drop a friend at the bus station and when coming back up 219, the closer we got to J'burg we saw a plume that looked like a tornado. It was huge and ominous looking but actually was just the steam coming out of their smoke stacks on a day when the air inverted so all the cbimneys for the factory, which were going full steam were all joining together as they rose above the town. They closer we got the stronger the odors became. When we got to the town it looked like fog in a movie. It stunk and my windshield got a greasy coating of what looked like grimy rain drops all over it but they didnt run off like rain.
On another day I was at the CVS pharmacy, sitting in their parking lot waiting for some prescriptions.The sewer plant behind the place had a billowing cloud arising rapidly from it and created a mist that was falling down on everything. I saw how it was also going into the vents on the roof of the store and thought that perhaps it fhey turned their vents the opposite way, that maybe it wouldnt enter their ventilation system. I am not an engineer but when you walk in the door of the place, the odor is profound.
When I came out I drove around the side and parked a few minutes looking at the sewer plant and the factory, looking at all the steam clouds coming from their chimneys, emitting odors, particles, vapors and whatnot that everyone in the town including me were breathing in and began to wonder if this was in fact the culprit that was degenerating my health.
I spoke with a few people over the next few months, most seem resolved that there is nothing t hat can be done about it and that the factory was actually improving on its emissions as they were told to by some court order a few years earlier and had a certain amount of time to clean it up. They each told me it used to be worse. I wonder if it was worse, but is it really getting better or if me like everyone else is adapting to it.
I have always had a sensitive nose so maybe its me but I dont think anything is improving and with more odors on weekends and holidays, I wonder if they ramp up their activity when govt officials who should be monitoring their pollution are not around. Maybe its just the way the wind blows but I still wonder if they are doing anything to stop the pollution without risking any loss of jobs. Being the biggest employer in the town, would make many bite their tongues rather than speak up about the health hazards this place maybe causing.
Recently I was in the hospital again - still COPD & CHF My diuretics dont take down all the fluids I am retaining and my hips are worse than ever. While I wasnt the healthiest before moving here, I was very active and getting around fine before moving here. 2 winters ago in Minnesota I had lost over 50 lbs and was shoveling snow all winter, building snow sculptures and interacting with my children and grandchildren. I was going out regularly and did my own shopping and more. Now I feel 20 years older, broken down and barely able to walk most days. Is it coincidence or is there something to the pollution levels in J'burg?
I would like to say however for the most part that the water here is better than many places I have been too and I drink more tap water here than I have ever drank anywhere else. The water is good.
The Bilo market opened up last year and that makes grocery shopping alot easier. While St.Mary's and Ridgway are only minutes away, shopping at Walmart and other stores and restaurants are nearby, its still nice to have a store around the corner to go to. The Fox's Pizza is excellent as is the food from the Chinese Restaurant down the block. The Fuel On also makes sandwiches and pizza so its another alternative when I dont want to cook.
The Family Dollar Store next to the BiLo Supermarket is also convenient . I do more shopping there now than I was doing at Walmart and go there first. I do comparison shopping and find there are times where I get better buys here in town or when its a single item, sometimes may cost a few cents more but its still worth getting when I would factor in the cost of driving to another town.
There is a free swimming pool in the summer, just 4 miles up the Glen Hazel Road to Bendigo State Park. There is also a community center that has activities and also has an indoor pool [although it was closed this passed year for renovations] so this is not a dead town by any means. People may stay indoors more than in other places, at least I do, but it still has a charm about the town that is crying out for revitalizaion.
I am looking into getting a whole house air filter so hoping that will make a needed difference. Funny, even though its winter, when that factory is going full steam. their odors still seep into my house. That is perhaps the worst thing about living in Johnsonburg, but that is something that can be fixed. They make custom catalytic converters for chimneys that can be be customized and would filter out all that pollution.
I hope they do this soon. I know people who work here cant fight their bosses as they need their jobs.I heard they had the mill shut down for a long time which caused many to leave town. There was over 10,000 population here many years ago and now less than 3,000.
I hope to see this town come back to life and for that big old factory to upgrade its emissions equipment so that it stops polluting the air and waterways.
I think the town is worth saving and I do like my house here. It is a peaceful place for the most part.
My son was surfing the net and found a nice looking house on a website with a price about 10% of what it would be worth elsewhere.He called me in Minnesota and was excited by the the find as it would be cheaper to relocate and buy this house than to remain in Tioga County. I sent him to meet the owner and tour the house which needed a minimal amount of repairs. Its location seemed good as it was on a road leading out of town and had a nice lot rising up the hill behind the house. I told him to email me pictures and he did and it seemed too good to be true. He did mention there was a river on the other side of the street and beyond that some pyramids of wood chips that ewre constantly being moved by huge interesting looking conveyor belts and trucks into a huge factory down the road. He said it was a paper mill.
Knowing nothing about paper mills but coming from NYC originally living on Staten Island, which is surrounded by numerous NJ industrial complexes and smokestacks, I knew there would be some sort of emissions but remember back in the 70s how one particular area on the east side of Staten Island had an increased cancer rate and was called 'cancer alley' as the emissions and fumes from the industrial sites across the river in NJ were coming over when the wind blew a certain way. I left Staten Island in 1985 and moved to the country and thought air pollution was something I left behind in NYC.
Well I bought the house, paid cash and then drove out from Minnesota to Tioga County and helped my sons pack up the house they were living at and rented a UHaul and headed to Johnsonburg.
We hadnt event reached the town or city limits when we began to look at one another and ask 'who did it?' as we all simultaneously smelled the foulest odot~!! My son smiled and laughed and said , " I told you they sometimes have an odor problem that makes the place smell like boiling cabbage or worse..." Well this was one of those day that the worse was out and we were breathing it.
The paper mill processes wood into pulp and makes paper. Chemicals they use as they boil the stuff, emits noxious odors out their chimneys and some days are better than others but most are compared as bad to worse. I must say living where we are we dont get it as badly as the folks downtown but when the wind blows the other direction - the odor seeks into the house no matter if the windows and doors are shut or not.