Treatment plant issued cease and desist order
A wood treatment plant in Picayune located near an existing Superfund site was recently issued cease and desist orders by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for failure to correct numerous environmental violations, first recorded in 2004.
The plant is located near or on the same site Picayune Wood Treating Inc. and Pearl River Wood LLC previously operated. Picayune Wood Treating Inc. was the site of the existing Superfund site where federal and state agencies are cleaning up creosote previously used to treat wood.
Right next door, Stone Treated Materials received cease and desist orders from MDEQ to stop all production of treated wood as of June 11, due to repeated environmental violations. Those violations were first recorded by the agency in Oct. 2004.
City Councilman Leavern Guy said Stone Treated Materials worries him by conducting its treating operations next to the Superfund site especially with the company’s apparent lack of concern for the surrounding community.
“No one seems to be giving a damn about that,” Guy said.
Stone Treated Materials, owned by Robinson Hickman Jr., began operation on the old Pearl River Wood treatment site on Jan. 19, 2004, according to MDEQ documents. Tax records trace the company’s existence to 2002. A mailing address for the company is listed as a P.O. Box in Wiggins. Don Lott, Chief of Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Division for MDEQ said the company used to have a site in Wiggins, but has been operating out of Picayune since January 2004. Pinero said when new companies come into the city they must obtain a privilege license. Stone Treated Materials did not obtain their privilege license until May 16, of this year, according to city records. Pinero said the company was initially operating in the city without the city’s knowledge.
One of many violations listed in the MDEQ orders involves the Picayune facility not applying for and receiving its wood treater National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from MDEQ, according to MDEQ records. Harry Wilson, Chief of Permitting Division of MDEQ said the company finally received its NPDES Storm Water Permit from MDEQ on March 17, 2005, months after the company took over operations of the site. Wilson said a public hearing is not required when the company applies for that permit.
Another listed violation included damaged drip pads, which are used to capture the treatment solution while the wood dries. Other violations include lack of employee training, treated wood observed partially submerged in storm water and failure to conduct storm water sampling for pH of arsenic, copper and chromium.
A letter from Hickman to MDEQ dated Feb. 7, 2005 states he corrected the drip pad violation. However, MDEQ inspections conducted Nov. 16, 2006 and Jan. 25, of this year note the same damaged drip pad violation. Two other letters, received on Feb. 15, and April 17, of this year from Hickman to MDEQ again stated work had begun to correct the violations. That same violation was again listed in the March order for the company to correct, along with the other violations. The lack of corrective action by Stone Treated Materials caused MDEQ to issue a cease and desist order on June 11, years after the company’s first violation was recorded.
The plant uses a chemical called chromate copper arsenate to treat wood, according to MDEQ documents. The Environmental Protection Agency website, http://www.epa.gov/oppad001/reregistration/cca/, states the residential use of CCA treated wood, wood used for playsets, decks and fencing, is restricted with exceptions. However, Stone Treated Materials is using the chemical within close proximity to a residential area. MDEQ communications director Robbie Wilbert said since Pearl River Wood was operating in that area Stone Treated Materials has been grandfathered in. WIlbert said there are no regulations on building or operating a CCA facility near a residential area.
“The same way creosote got into the ground is the same way arsenic is going to get into the ground,” said Picayune City Manger Ed Pinero Jr. “That’s why we’ve been requesting help from EPA and MDEQ.”
Lott said the department did not issue a cease and desist order earlier because it was trying to work with the company to correct the violations.
“That process took longer than expected,” Lott said.
An order was issued March 6, for the company to fix their violations by March 15. Stone Treated Materials could have applied for a 30-day extension with a written request. Since the violations were not corrected and apparently no extension was applied for, the cease and desist order was issued. Cease and desist orders usually are not issued since most violations are worked out before a company’s deadline to make corrections is up, Lott said.
Lott said the cease and desist order still stands as of Wednesday. On Tuesday, MDEQ conducted a follow up inspection to see how corrective work was going. He said it appeared no wood treating was going on during the inspectors’ visit and the company had conducted some work to correct the violations. “But not everything has been completed yet,” Lott said.
Numerous calls by the Picayune Item to Hickman’s office have not been returned. The receptionist said the owner had received the messages left by the Item.
Before the site can continue operations, the company will need to correct the violations, reapply for its NPDES permit, and settle any monetary penalties set forth by MDEQ, Lott said. He said he expects monetary fines to be assessed by MDEQ to Stone Treated Materials but the amounts have not yet been worked out.
Guy is concerned the company can legally remain where it is by coming into compliance even after it had ignored numerous notifications of violations in the past. He also is worried that MDEQ appears to be a reactionary organization rather than a proactive one.
“They do things after it has happened. They need to watch the operation making sure there is not a violation,” Guy said. “Here you are in the shadow of a Superfund site. If we don’t get this shut down, it will create another Superfund site. We can’t just sit idly by and allow this to happen. MDEQ needs to take a serious look at this situation,” Guy said.
Guy said that at some point the Picayune City Council may attempt to take action and declare the site a public nuisance, but he is not sure how legal that move will be.
“At some point we got to do something to protect the citizens,” Guy said.