By Diana Matthews
With no word yet from North Carolina’s Division of Air Quality on their Title V permit, Malec Brothers Transport LLC is looking for ways to fumigate pine logs without emitting methyl bromide into the air.
The company is “trying to retain as many jobs as possible throughout the forest industry value-chain,” said David Smith, executive for international procurement.
Two public hearings last month brought out hundreds of residents opposed to the use of the pesticide. Methyl bromide was once used routinely to prepare tobacco beds. After the 2005 Montreal Protocol, it began to be phased out worldwide, along with CFC aerosol sprays and the fire retardant Halon, due to concerns about ozone depletion.
“Proactively, Malec continues to explore and assess a range of emission capture and destruction technologies,” Smith said, “some of which unfortunately are clearly uneconomic for North Carolina’s unique market dynamics.”
On the other hand, he said, “One emission destruction technology compliant with the Montreal Protocol looks very likely, and, if we are provided the opportunity by DAQ and the county commissioners, we will chase that solution and transition to that technology as quickly as it can be implemented.”
While in negotiations with the manufacturer, Smith said, “I can’t as yet elaborate on the destruction technology we are pursuing,” but “the DAQ are aware” of it. He described it as a “solution which we believe will ultimately benefit all stakeholders without the need of costly manual disposal of carbon into landfill.” Smith promised that he would deliver details of the process to The News Reporter “the second I’m allowed.”
A low-tech meanwhile option
While “waiting to hear our fate,” Smith said, “we continue to debark the logs.” This process involves first feeding one log at a time through a machine that tears off most of the bark; then, Smith said, staff members “manually remove every scrap of bark.”
He described it as “a highly manual process that isn’t sustainable long term” but said it was “the only way debarked logs are being accepted by the market.” While removing bark is feasible for large-diameter logs, he said, “the smaller logs do not survive the debarking process.”
Workers at the log yard near Delco have never begun to fumigate any pine logs for shipping, nor did they fumigate at their pilot log yard in Wilmington, according to Wilmington DAQ director Brad Newland. Malec’s customers in China, however, usually reject unfumigated logs, said Smith.
Ramifications for N.C. economy
“We understand DAQ will likely have a mountain of information from which to sort through,” Smith said, “and of course, their decision will have enormous ramifications for many industries that rely upon imports and exports throughout North Carolina.
“In competition with Savannah, Georgia and other US ports, the port of Wilmington itself is proudly enjoying significant government investment, jobs and expansion in pursuit of important trade opportunities, so it will be interesting to see if N.C. state officials get behind those jobs and investment or allow a transfer of those opportunities to other U.S. states.”
While waiting to see how the DAQ responds, Smith said, “We remain optimistic that all interests will be served in the long run.”