More than 350 people packed a school auditorium this week in Columbus County, to learn more about a permit application. Malec Brothers Transport wants to use methyl bromide to treat logs to kill pests before those logs are shipped to China. As they did just last week, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality hosted a public hearing. Just like last week, the public spoke loudly.
And a child will lead them...
That may have been true this week, in a high school auditorium in Lake Waccamaw.
“My name is Mary Hester, and I’m here for all the children, because you’re just putting our lives in danger. You are putting poison in the air….”
Mary was one of dozens of people who spoke at the last public hearing to be held regarding the use of methyl bromide – a hazardous chemical – in a log fumigation operation. The public comment period ends this Friday.
“What you all are doing is insane. Y’all. Y’all kill someone, you are going to have to take it to the grave.
“How is it not going to get in the air. If it gets into the air, we cannot get it out. Once the air flows around, people will get sick. And y’all from somewhere else. And we can’t sue you all…”
But does it matter, what Mary and the residents and other concerned citizens say, in a public hearing?
“Absolutely - this process can influence some of our final decisions. We listen, we compile the information, we listen again, we adjust if necessary before we take any final action.”
Michael Abraczinskas is the Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality. He will make the final permit decision. He says next week all the comments and concerns will be included in a final report…
“Which then comes to me, as Division of Air Quality, to consider the recommendations from the hearing officer as to what next steps we should take with regard to that draft air quality permit.”
This week’s meeting was a continuation of a hearing last week, at the Acme-Delco Middle School, which is just up the road from the Malec Brothers property.
It’s a struggling community.
Deborah Dicks Maxwell is a District Director of the NAACP
“We are very tired of being an environmental justice cesspool for companies. And for those who don’t know what environmental justice is, it is the fair treatment of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. People in this area, we have too many Superfund sites, brownfields, we do not need to have our air quality compromised…”
Of the dozens of speakers, no one spoke in favor of the project. Malec Brothers did not address the hearing, unlike last week when they told an audience of the benefits of more jobs – about 40 - and higher wages.
The permit would allow them to emit up to 140 tons of methyl bromide annually -- more than any other facility in the country.
Reginald Webb doesn’t like the idea.
“And I am one who has lived in these woods for all of my life. I am not interested or even tolerating or being a neighbor to someone who is trucking in methyl bromide!”
Kim Smith is the Public Health Director, for Columbus County.
“Our physical environment has worsened during the past eight years, according to the county health rankings. Our environment cannot take much more. I’m asking as the Public Health Director of Columbus County, to deny the Malec Brothers permit to use methyl bromide in our county. We do not need it.”
The DEQ has not set a time table for when it expects to make its final decision on the Malec Brothers permit. For WHQR News, I’m Vince Winkel.