Permit to pollute withdrawn after N.C. community pushes back

Company drops chemicals after Delco residents weighs in to protect air quality

Malec Brothers operates a large log processing site in rural Delco, North Carolina, northwest of Wilmington. 

After months of intense legal and public pressure, Malec Brothers, a methyl bromide log fumigation company, formally withdrew its air permit application for a proposed operation in Delco, North Carolina.

Despite the fact that methyl bromide is known to pose many hazards to people’s health and the environment, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued a draft permit to Malec Brothers to construct what would have been the largest methyl bromide log fumigation operation in North Carolina and one of the largest sites in the United States.

Methyl bromide is a highly toxic chemical regulated as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. It is also a stratospheric ozone-depleting substance that is banned under the Montreal Protocol except in limited circumstances, such as fumigation of logs for pest control. This past summer, SELC submitted comments on Malec Brothers’ draft air permit highlighting its deficiencies under the Clean Air Act and the harm Malec Brothers’ operation would pose to nearby communities from methyl bromide exposure.

With the assistance of several partner organizations and advocates in the community, SELC helped inform the community about what was being proposed and the health risks from exposure to this toxic chemical. As a result, the state officials received more than 1,000 public comments and more than 600 people total attended two public hearings on the draft permit.

Shortly after the close of the comment period, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reversed course and announced that it would move forward with designating methyl bromide as a state toxic air pollutant and would develop safeguards for the use of methyl bromide in log fumigation. Additionally, DEQ placed all pending methyl bromide permit applications in the state on hold, including Malec Brothers, pending the adoption of regulations.

Then, last week, state officials announced that Malec Brothers had withdrawn its application for the permit. Instead of using any chemical or fumigant, the company is now going to control pests by removing the bark from logs before shipment.

This is a big win for North Carolina’s air quality. Not only are the people of Delco and surrounding communities protected from the toxic emissions from this particular facility, but North Carolina’s continuing commitment to regulating methyl bromide and the industry is a huge step forward in protecting people across the state from future operations.   

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