DEQ Says More Safeguards Needed For Methyl Bromide Permit Request

Jul 26, 2018

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality Thursday announced its decision on the use of methyl bromide in log fumigation operations in Columbus County. Rather than grant a permit to the company’s facility in Delco, DEQ says more steps have to be taken. Here's the latest on a story that we first brought you last spring. 

Malec Brothers is an Australian company that exports logs to China. They had requested a Title Five permit to emit up to 140 tons of methyl bromide, which is known to harm human health, and deplete the ozone layer.

The DEQ is recommending that the state now regulate emissions from the chemical, used in log fumigation.

The move came after two packed public hearings were held by the agency in Columbus County a few months ago.  

The Division of Air Quality also wants to designate methyl bromide as a state Toxic Air Pollutant. In addition, the DAQ plans to require that Title V permit holders capture and control a minimum of 90 percent of methyl bromide emissions.

Last March a logging operation in Wilmington pulled their permit request for using methyl bromide as a fumigant.

This decision puts four permit applications on hold in North Carolina.

NC DEQ Statement – July 26, 2018

Raleigh, NC – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is taking comprehensive action on the use of methyl bromide in log fumigation operations. A review of current and proposed facilities, including the Malec Brothers Transport operation in Columbus County, made clear the need for specific state regulations for methyl bromide use.

“As more businesses seek to use methyl bromide at log fumigation sites in our state, the lack of specific federal or state regulatory measures for the use of this hazarous air pollutant creates a potential public health risk we must address,” says Mike Abraczinskas, Division of Air Quality Director.

DAQ will recommend the Environmental Management Commission develop a rule to require log fumigation operations to take appropriate measures to safeguard public health. DAQ will also ask the Secretaries’ Scientific Advisory Board to consider the need to establish an Acceptable Ambient Level for methyl bromide and to designate it as a state Toxic Air Pollutant.

At the same time, the division will use its permitting responsibility to ensure the public’s safety.  DAQ intends to require permit holders to capture and control a minimum of 90% of methyl bromide emissions.  DAQ’s research shows feasible capture and control technologies exist and should be included in all permit applications.

“After additional review, we concluded a multi-faceted approach was vital to safeguard the public health and address the significant community concerns about these facilities,” says Abraczinskas.

As proposed, the Malec Brothers Transport facility would be the largest methyl bromide log fumigation site in the state. DAQ has directed Malec Brothers Transport to provide more information on additional monitoring and safety measures. Specifically, they must provide a plan for capture and control technology and operation limits to safeguard public health. The application is on hold until the requested information is received and evaluated by DAQ permitting staff.   The request for information letter, along with the Hearing Officer’s Report, the Environmental Justice impact statement and a report on the State of Air Quality surrounding the proposed facility is now available here:https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/air-quality/air-quality-permitting/methyl-bromide-log-fumigation

Applications for several additional facilities are also on hold pending evaluation of requested information about their monitoring protocols, capture and control processes and proposed operational limits.  Additionally, DAQ is notifying five existing permitted facilities of the intent to modify their permits to require additional control measures and appropriate monitoring protocols. Copies of those letters are also available at https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/air-quality/air-quality-permitting/methyl-bromide-log-fumigation