A logging operation in Wilmington pulled their permit request for using methyl bromide as a fumigant in late March. Now a transportation company in Delco, Columbus County, is asking for a Title Five permit to emit up to 140 tons of methyl bromide. A public hearing last week in Delco allowed residents to express their views to North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.
NOTE: THE DEQ HAS SCHEDULED A SECOND PUBLIC HEARING. State officials have announced a new location for the continuation of a public hearing to seek additional feedback on a permit application from Malec Brothers Transport, LLC. Additionally, the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) will hold a public information session at 6:00 pm, one hour prior to that hearing. Both sessions will take place on May 15 at East Columbus High School, 32 Gator Lane in Lake Waccamaw, on the Malec Brothers’ draft permit. The public hearing starts at 7 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality officials did not expect 350 people to show up at the ACME-Delco Middle School in Columbus County last week for a hearing on methyl bromide.
At issue is a permit request from Malec Brothers, an Australian company that would like the green light to emit as much as 140 tons a year of methyl bromide into the atmosphere, as part of their operation in Delco. The chemical would be used as a fumigant – to get rid of bugs -- before logs are shipped to China. Methyl bromide is toxic and banned by 150 counties world-wide according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also depletes the ozone. In 2005 the EPA phased out the use of methyl bromide, except for a few uses including log fumigation. To export the logs to China, they must be fumigated first.
Megan Thorpe is the DEQ Communications Director.
“We will listen tonight and see what the major concerns are from the public. And certainly listen to that feedback and see what we can do to best protect North Carolinians.”
They got an earful. Dozens of local residents signed up to speak.
“I escaped Agent Orange. I was a crane operator for 9/11, I escaped that. I’ll be dammed if I have to escape this. I represent myself, my wife, six horses, 17 grandkids, and 2 great grandkids. I’m not going to have them walk around with gas masks. I didn’t come here for that. If it’s that safe, let them bring it to their place, not here. As for the jobs. No job is worth that. And no one is going to be able to collect the pension from it because they won’t be alive.”
“What are we thinking about. Where are we folks? Where are we? What is it? This shouldn’t even be a question. This shouldn’t be a question. I’m sorry. (applause)
Malec Brothers procurement executive David Smith tried to explain the benefits of the facility to the residents. He was not warmly received.
“The socio-economic benefits for this county, Columbus County, is $42 million a year. With jobs. There’s a range from $15 to $22 an hour. And last I heard this is a county that averages about $5 an hour, and needs jobs.”
Wilmington dealt with methyl bromide in March, when Tima Capital was looking for a Title V permit near the port. Tima ultimately pulled their request. Erin Carey is with the Sierra Club’s North Carolina Chapter
“I was made aware of the methyl bromide permit in Wilmington, the Tima Capital permit, and once we started doing some research on that it came to our attention that this permit was also being considered by the Department of Air Quality. And we were very successful in rallying people against the permit in Wilmington and so we are here to rally the local community against this permit as well.”
“This is absolutely a case of environmental justice. Delco is a very small community, mostly people of color, mostly lower income, they are hard-working people and they deserve to have a voice as to whether or not toxins are being spilled into the air just like everybody else.”
Mid-way through the meeting, the county fire marshal ordered the meeting closed, because the school cafeteria was far beyond its legal capacity. However the school principle offered the gymnasium next door, and the public hearing continued for several hours.
Heather Hillaker is an attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center.
“DEQ’s proposed permit does not protect people of Delco and surrounding communities, from the harmful effects of unenforceable and excessive releases of methyl bromide – a highly toxic chemical and hazardous air pollutant. Instead under this proposed permit Malec will become the largest methyl bromide air pollution source in the United States. DEQ’s proposed permit contains insufficient controls and inadequate monitoring to protect the surrounding community.”
By the time last week’s public hearing had ended, the DEQ said it would hold another meeting, and extend the initial end of public comment deadline which had been slated to end this week.