Public hearing to reopen wood treatment

Published 3:37 pm Friday, June 6, 2008

Almost a year after the plant was closed down due to the owners’ failure to correct nine violations, Stone Treated Materials may have a second chance to be permitted to operate in Picayune.

Stone Treated Materials was issued cease and desist orders on June 11, 2007 due to the plant’s non-compliance with Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality regulations. Nine violations were found at the plant, such as lack of a proper drip pad, insufficient training and treated wood lying in storm water ponds. Those violations were first noted by MDEQ in 2006.

Yesterday in a called meeting of the Picayune City Council, which was originally set to be executive session but later changed to open session, MDEQ announced that a public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 24, at the Picayune Memorial High School auditorium. The hearing will collect public comments on Stone Treated Materials obtaining a permit to reopen.

The process will involve comments from community residents and written statements. Those statements, both verbal and written, will be presented to a permitting board, said MDEQ attorney Ray Furr. That permitting board will determine the outcome.

Furr said the company has been fined $100,000 for its previous violation, which will be paid in 12 equal installments.

After the announcement, council member Leavern Guy expressed his discontent that MDEQ is allowing the company to reapply for a permit, especially since the company was working extremely close to an existing Superfund site.

“It just doesn’t seem right to me that we are allowing this to come back,” Guy said. “You just don’t know how frustrating it is to constantly fight these battles.”

Furr said that local regulations for permitting would still apply, and that local laws will not be affected by anything MDEQ decides in the matter. Mayor Greg Mitchell said that if MDEQ’s decision does supersede the city’s decision, then he will suggest to council members that the council consults its legal counsel.

Council member Anna Turnage asked if there were any cancer causing agents used in Stone Treated Material’s treatment process. MDEQ engineer Chris Sanders said arsenic, one of the treatment chemicals used by the company, is cancerous.

Council member Donald Parker said he will drum up public attendance at the meeting to express their opinion on the matter.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is set for 6 p.m. June 17, in the council chambers.