WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A company with logging treatment operations in Wilmington has been fined about $6,730 for emitting too much methyl bromide, a potentially toxic gas, and failing to accurately keep track of records, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Methyl bromide gas is used to kill bugs and pests that live on logs before they are exported to other countries. In the process of fumigation, methyl bromide is pumped in, allowed to sit for several hours, then slowly released or recaptured. It’s colorless, odorless, and linked to a number of human health dangers and damage to the ozone layer.
State air quality officials discussed the violations by Royal Pest Solutions, which does business as Royal Fumigation, at an Air Quality Committee Meeting on Wednesday morning.
Methyl bromide leaks out of containers on the way from Wilmington to China, exceeding NC limit
DEQ notified Royal Pest Solutions on November 5 that the company would be fined $4,904 because its site on Burnett Boulevard exceeded the 12-month, ten-ton methyl bromide emission limit during May, June, and July 2018.
According to its state permit, Royal Pest Solutions is only allowed to emit a maximum of ten tons of methyl bromide gas per year -- a total that is calculated on a rolling basis each month.
Royal Pest Solutions exceeded the maximum methyl bromide limit by a few hundred pounds: 20,201.8 pounds in May 2018, 20,980.8 pounds in June 2018, and 20,166.3 pounds in July 2018.
According to DEQ documents, the company emitted too much methyl bromide because it calculated months later how much gas was released in January, February, and March 2018.
"The area that had been used exclusively by (Royal Pest Solutions) was no longer available to them and... the fumigation activities were moved to a more cramped location during the months of January, February, and March 2018," according to an explanation by the company's vice president and general counsel Anne Bookout.
Because of the cramped space, the company decided to not aerate the containers of methyl bromide after fumigation. The containers, full of logs and methyl bromide, were shipped from the Port of Wilmington to China. During the shipping process, the methyl bromide slowly leaked from the containers, because they are not air-tight, according to DEQ documents.
In May 2018, DEQ asked Royal Pest Solutions to calculate how much had leaked out during those three months. It was then that state regulators discovered Royal Pest Solutions exceeded the ten-ton limit of methyl bromide.
The company has until December 5 to pay this $4,904 fine, request the penalty be dismissed, or file a petition for a hearing.
Math error causes company to emit too much methyl bromide at another site
Another Royal Pest Solutions site at 800 & 810 Sunnyvale Drive had record keeping inaccuracies, which led to the company exceeding methyl bromide emission limits.
In January 2018, DEQ discovered that Royal Pest Solutions had inaccurately recorded methyl bromide emission totals while looking over its 2017 data. This led to the rolling monthly totals of methyl bromide being calculated incorrectly through January 2018.
“It has been determined by this office that the monthly 12-month rolling total usage of methyl bromide, based upon the monthly usage of methyl bromide from January 2017 through January 2018 was not calculated correctly,” according to DEQ documents.
As a result of the calculation error, Royal Pest Solutions exceeded the ten-ton limit by 832.5 pounds in June 2017.
DEQ first notified Royal Pest Solutions of the notice of civil penalty in February 2018. The company was fined $1,829 in July 2018.
Methyl bromide fumigation has since stopped at the Sunnyvale Drive site after the state permit was rescinded in April 2018.
WECT has reached out to Anne Bookout, Royal Pest Solutions vice president and general counsel, to learn more about the errors.