Wood treating plant continues to worry City Council

Published 4:41 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A plant located adjacent to the Wood Treating Super Fund Site has Picayune City Councilman Leavern Guy worried that the city may be facing another massive cleanup brought on by pollution from a plant that treats wood products to be resistant against decay and insects.

Guy brought up the plant at the end of last night’s City Council meeting, along with a proposal for a new zoning designation for areas containing homes on lots of an acre or larger. The meeting had received a shock earlier when City Councilman Larry Watkins voted “no” on a motion to approve the docket, which is the document authorizing the city to pay its bills. Normally, a motion to approve the docket passes unanimously.

Stone Treated Materials, a Wiggins-based company located on Davis Street, treats wood poles with an arsenic material, Guy said, and improperly stores the poles on the ground where the chemicals could leach into the soil and on into the city’s ground water.

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Guy and City Manager Ed Pinero said they have been out to the plant and have reported it to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pinero said in a telephone call Wednesday morning that Stone had been cited by the DEQ going back as far as Dec. 2, 2004. The plant site has been inspected several times by DEQ with 13 violations being noted in the Jan. 9, 2007 inspection.

“The number one violation each time is that the company does not have an EPA identification number,” Pinero.

He said the company also has been cited for violations, including storm water runoff, that could be polluting the city’s ground water and soil.

“We have a school just down the street,” he said, referring to South Side Upper and Lower elementaries, which share campus.

Following the Jan. 9 examination of the plant by DEQ, the plant was given until May 15 to correct the problems, the two men said at last night’s meeting. At that time, Pinero said that to the best of his knowledge, the DEQ had not done a follow-up investigation and from what he saw recently in a visit to the plant, no corrections have been made.

However, Guy told Pinero and the City Council that he had gotten a message on his cell phone in the past couple of days that DEQ had made a return visit and that no corrections had been made.

Guy asked City Attorney Nathan Farmer if there was anything the city can do to put the plant out of business before it becomes as big a problem as the wood treatment plant that gave the city a Super Fund Site.

Farmer said the city could declare the plant a public nuisance, but he also anticipated that the city could be blocked by the company’s response that it is under the exclusive regulation of the state and federal governments through the DEQ and EPA. At that point in the meeting, though, he said he didn’t want to say any more about the plant, indicating that any other potential action should be discussed in executive session.

Earlier in the Tuesday evening, Watkins delivered on a promise he made before the meeting began by voting no on the motion to approve the docket. The councilman said before the meeting that he planned to vote no on approving the docket because the city seems to be spending money every where but in the 1st council district that he represents and that the streets in his area are deteriorating rapidly.

“I’m going to vote against the docket every time until they do some work in our district,” Watkins said.

Guy proposed the new zoning because he said that people who build on the large lots want to protect the integrity of their investment in their homes just as everyone else does. He said the zoning he proposed would prevent an owner of a larger lot in the middle of a development of homes on such lots from subdividing the lot into smaller parcels and building homes on them.

He made a motion for the zoning department to gather data on such zoning and to return to the council with the information it would need to formulate such a zoning designation, if the council decided to go ahead with such zoning. A public hearing also would be held on an ordinance for such zoning before voting on it.

In other matters, the Council:

— Tabled until the June 19 meeting a motion to approve a blues festival in September at Snyder Park.

— Approved advertising the resources of the city for $200 at the Missississippi Senior America Program.

— Approved advertising for the construction of a 12,000 square-foot fire station to be located behind Shoney’s and to advertise a statement of findings and explanation for floodplain management for the fire station.

— Approved having the city manager develop a five-year paving plan and to look into the cost of the city doing its on paving as opposed to bidding it out.

— Approved motions for the development of a rail spur for Avon.

— Tabled until the June 19 meeting an acknowledgment that a hearing for Grand Oaks Apartments, a 136-unit development, was held May 8.

— Approved two requests from the Vivian Burch Martin Trust to rezone parcels on Miss. 43 from R-2 residential to C-3 highway commercial.

— Approved motions to construct helipads, automobile parking and T-hangers, to improve airport drainage and to update the airport layout at the airport.

— Approved advertising for bids for emergency work and debris removal in the aftermath of a potential hurricane during the current hurricane season.

— Approved donations to the Picayune Police Dept. totaling $4,375.

— Went into executive session on contractual matters, possible litigation, a personnel matter and the possible sale of land. Following the executive session, the council agreed to an expansion at Avon Engineered Fabrications in relation to the rail spur agreed to earlier; agreed to expand New Palestine Cemetery; agreed to close the alley between the U.S. Post office and 1st National Bank, and appointed Claiborne “Buddy” McDonald as city judge pro tempore.

Adjourned until 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 19.