Info session about permit application to use a potentially toxic gas moved to larger venue

Info session about permit application to use a potentially toxic gas moved to larger venue
Malec Brothers Transport LLC is the company applying to use methyl bromide to treat logs to kill pests before they’re shipped as exports. (SOURCE: WECT)

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The public is invited to a two-part event about a Delco-based company's permit application to use methyl bromide, a potentially toxic gas, to treat logs for pests before shipping.

Starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, an information session at the East Columbus High School Auditorium will allow citizens to ask questions and immediately get answers from air quality leaders about the permitting process for Malec Brothers Transport LLC.

East Columbus High School is located at 32 Gator Lane in Lake Waccamaw, NC, which is about a 20-minute drive from Delco.

Previously, state leaders planned to hold the methyl bromide event at Acme-Delco Middle School, but expected high attendance, parking limitations and disability compliance considerations led them to move to a larger location at East Columbus High School.

"We will be available to answer questions," said Megan Thorpe, communications director for the NC Department of Environmental Quality.

Then at 7 p.m., the microphone will open up for anyone in the public to share comments with state air quality regulators as a continuation of the last hearing. You can sign up at the door to speak.

The first hearing drew an unexpectedly large crowd who voiced outrage about the company Malec Brothers' decision to fumigate with methyl bromide gas less than a mile from a middle school in Delco.

Fumigation is a pest control method that completely fills a space with pesticide gas, called fumigants, to kill the pests.

Methyl bromide is an odorless, highly toxic chemical that people can use to kill pests by fumigation. Scientists believe it kills pests by damaging the cells and binding to DNA, fats, and proteins.

Methyl bromide also contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer, according to the EPA.

Executives with Malec Brothers insist the fumigation operation would be safe, fitted with devices to monitor the concentration at different points on site, ensuring it remains low.

The company will not recapture the methyl bromide but instead release it upwards into the atmosphere with a fan to disperse the chemical to low concentrations.

The company leaders also highlighted the economic growth the logging transport operation would bring to Columbus County, estimating that about 40 new jobs will be created.

The public comment period is extended until May 18, after which state air quality leaders will make a decision on the company's permit application.

WECT's Ben Smart will be reporting from Columbus County tomorrow with coverage of the methyl bromide public event.

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