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Timber company nixes application to use toxic chemical at log facility
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.

Pat Donahue, Coastal Courier

The controversial permit application that if approved would have enabled a timber company to use a highly toxic chemical to treat lumber has been pulled.

Weyerhaeuser had sought state Environmental Protection Division permission to use methyl bromide to fumigate logs at a facility it is building about one mile north of the Interstate 95-Highway 17 interchange. The site also is about five miles south of the center of Riceboro.

Dozens of concerned residents and local and area officials gathered last Monday at Riceboro City Hall to voice their opposition.

“I am elated that Weyerhaeuser has made the decision to withdraw its permit application to use methyl bromide at its lumber treatment facility in Liberty County,” said county commission Chairman Donald Lovette. “When we personally shared our objections to the potential hazards to our environment, future commercial and residential development and to the health and wellness of our citizens and adjacent communities, Weyerhaeuser made the decision to discontinue the development of the facility. Our voices were heard.”

State Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) also opposed the permit and made his intentions known at last week’s meeting.

“I think there is pretty much a consensus this a no-no for this community,” he said, “and it would be terrible to locate it in this community. Somebody else might want it – but they need to know we don’t.”

In January, county commissioners granted a rezoning for the tract where Weyerhaeuser will put its log treatment facility. The company submitted an expedited air permit application with the state EPD this fall for using methyl bromide.

Methyl bromide, which is known to deplete the ozone layer, is used to control pests in agriculture and shipping, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Its production and use has been phased out in the U.S., with exceptions for uses such as quarantine and preshipment.

Methyl bromide is highly toxic, and studies in humans have shown that acute and long-term inhalation of the substance can lead to neurological effects, according to the EPA.

According to its permit application, obtained by the Coastal Courier, the company planned to use a maximum of 220 pounds of methyl bromide per fumigation event. Emissions of methyl bromide were expected to occur when covered log stacks were vented during aeration following fumigation.

The company also said it did not expect “significant emissions of fugitive dust” from the proposed project, but if that happened, the company said it would “take reasonable precautions to prevent emissions of fugitive dust.”

In its safety data sheets as part of its permit application, workers who were going to involved in the colorless, odorless gas’ use were to wear protective gloves and clothing and have eye and face and respiratory protection. They also were to be instructed to not breathe in the gas and keep stored in a locked area, away from heat and direct sunlight. Workers also were to wash their hands thoroughly after handling methyl bromide.

An EPD engineer working on the application, however, had not been notified as of Monday afternoon of the company’s decision to withdraw the permit application.

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