By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Officials, public rally against company’s permit application
company’s permit application
Liberty County Commissioner Marion Stevens, Chairman Donald Lovette, Riceboro Mayor Chris Stacy, state Rep. Buddy Deloach and state Rep. Al Williams join hands as Rev. Edgar Timmons Jr. prays following Monday morning’s news conference.

By Pat Donahue, Coastal Courier.

Local elected officials urged the public Monday morning to help them against a corporation.

On the Riceboro City Hall steps, a crowd of more than 60 people turned out to echo the officials’ opposition to a permit before the state Environmental Protection Division that if approved would allow a timber company to use a highly toxic substance on logs before shipping them overseas.

“We’re here to let Weyerhaueser know we are opposed to this development,” said Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway). “Secondly, we’re here to let the Environmental Protection Division of Georgia know that we are opposed to this.”

Weyerhaeuser, which was granted a rezoning for a log processing operation, has asked for an expedited permit from the EPD to use methyl bromide, which is toxic. The group 100 Miles, an organization that seeks to protect Georgia’s 100 miles of coastline, found out about the permit, Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said, and got in touch with Riceboro Mayor Chris Stacy.

“This alert caught the eye and attention of many citizens,” Lovette said.

With the public comment deadline approaching, Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission executive director Jeff Ricketson wrote the EPD in opposition to the permit and asked the EPD to either deny the permit or require the company to use an alternative method. “I also submitted a letter citing public safety as a major concern and that if this plant is allowed to operate, a substitute chemical that does not pose a threat to the environment, first responders and the community must be used,” Lovette said.

Lovette, Stacy and Williams also were joined by county Commissioner Marion Stevens, in whose district the timber operation lies, and state Rep. Buddy Deloach (R-Shellman Bluff).

Liberty County commissioners granted rezoning to Weyerhaeuser back in January, taking 28 acres off Highway 17 from A-1 to I-1 to process the logs. The site is about a mile north of the Interstate 95/Highway 17 interchange at exit 67 and about five miles south of Riceboro City Hall.

According to the company’s rezoning request, logs at the facility may undergo debarking, merchandising with a cutto- length system or fumigation before being loaded onto shipping containers and sent to the Savannah port.

The company reported expecting about 60 trucks per day in and out of the facility.

But no mention of what the company was going to use to fumigate the logs was made at the rezoning request.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methyl bromide is used to control pests in agriculture and shipping. Methyl bromide is odorless and colorless and has been designated as a compound that depletes the ozone layer. The U.S. has phased out production of methyl bromide, according to the EPA, with important exceptions for uses such as quarantine and pre-shipment.

It is used to treat commodities such as grapes, asparagus, logs and other imported goods, according to the EPA, to prevent pests from coming into the U.S.

Methyl bromide is a toxic substance and because it dissipates rapidly into the atmosphere, it is most dangerous at its fumigation site. According to the EPA, human exposure to high concentrations of methyl bromide can cause central nervous system and respiratory system failures and can harm the lungs, eyes and skin.

Williams said the project did not come through the Liberty County Development Authority, where he is vice chairman, and said he would have voted against it had it done so. Williams cited the location’s proximity to residences and potential runoff that could further damage the local fishing and shrimping industry in neighboring McIntosh County.

“This is just not the project for this part of Georgia,” he said.

No official had a timetable on when EPD will rule on the permit but Stacy promised to hold other town hall meetings to keep the public informed.

Though the public comment period on the permit application closed in November, local leaders continued to urge the public to write to the EPD in opposition to the permit.

“We are going to have to make sure that our voices are heard,” Williams said. “I think there is pretty much a consensus that this is a no-no for this community and it would be terrible to locate it in this community. Somebody else might want it – but they need to know we don’t.”

Sign up for our E-Newsletters