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Commissioners ask DEQ to deny Malec Brothers fumigation permit

With little discussion, the Columbus County Board of Commissioners Monday night voted unanimously to ask the N.C. Division of Air Quality Quality (DAQ) to deny a permit for Malec Brothers Transportation to fumigate pine logs in the Delco community, a process that would emit methyl bromide into the air.

Commissioner Ricky Bullard made the motion, seconded by James Prevatte.

The action came after Planning Director Gary Lanier told commissioners that he believes the county planning board should wait until after the state makes a decision on Malec’s permit before revisiting, as requested by commissioners two weeks ago, an earlier decision by the planning board to allow the Malec Brothers operation in Delco.

As approved by the commissioners, Bullard’s motion stated that County Manager/Attorney Mike Stephens will send a letter to DAQ voicing the county’s opposition to issuing the permit.

In the meantime, Malec Brothers is looking for ways of fumigating logs without emitting methyl bromide.

Public hearings in Delco on May 2 and May 18 brought out hundreds of residents opposed to the use of methyl bromide, which once was routinely used to prepare tobacco beds.

Malec Brothers, based in Australia, ships logs to Asia but international shipping regulations require that the logs be fumigated befpre they can be shipped.

Although an extended period for public comments to DAQ on the permit application has expired, commissioners decided Monday night to let their feelings be known to DAQ anyway.

DAQ Director Michael Abraczinskas, who ultimately will make the decision on whether the permit is granted, was expected to be out of the office through Thursday and could not be reached for comment on whether the commissioners’ request would be taken into consideration and when he expects to announce his decision.

Neither Megan Thorpe, a public information officer for DAQ, nor William Willets, head of the DAQ permitting section, returned our calls. However, after the second hearing in Delco, Willets said the hearing officer would have 30 days to write a report based on comments received. He added, however, that it probably wouldn’t take that long for her to issue her report. Abraczinskas’ final decision will be based largely on that report.

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