Update: Thursday, March 22, 3:45pm – New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White has called for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and its Division of Air Quality to extend the public comment period for Tima Capital’s Title V permit request. Additionally, White called for a public information session.
“It is my understanding that the 30-day public comment period for this application is set to
expire on March 25. I am writing today to ask that 1) the comment period be extended; and 2) that DEQ conduct a public information session in New Hanover County to address the permit request,” White wrote in a letter from the Board of Commissioners.
“Members of our community are specifically interested in understanding if the increases in the use of methyl bromide proposed in the application would be harmful to air quality. While I recognize that such a public meeting is not required by law, it is something that many of our citizens have asked be conducted so that the community can be informed,” White wrote.
WILMINGTON – Tima Capital Inc., a Wilmington-based distributor of hardwood, is applying to expand its business in Wilmington’s industrial area. In order to do that, it is requesting a tenfold to increase in use of the chemical insecticide methyl bromide, also called bromomethane.
The current permit for the facility expires at the end of May, but earlier this year the facility was served a notice of violation for going over its 9-ton limit for methyl bromide. According to North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Jamie Kritzer, the new Title V permit would allow considerably higher levels of use — as much as 90 tons.
According to 2016 EPA data, that would make Tima Capital the largest emitter of methyl bromide in the united states — the next largest user is Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tennessee, which emitted slightly more than 50 tons in 2016.
In 2013, residents of Morehead City publicly opposed a proposal for a similar facility, run by Cogent Fibre with insecticide fumigation provided by Royal Pest Solutions. In September of that year, Cogent Fibre dropped their plans to request an NCDEQ air quality permit.
Tima Capital’s own request for a modified permit requires a public comment period, which runs until March 25.
Tima Capital’s Title V permit request
The facility’s permit specifically concerns one chemical: Methyl bromide. The insecticide is a known toxin and, because it depletes the ozone layer, is being phased out under both the EPA and the international Montreal protocol agreement. However, there are exceptions to those agreements.
Tima Capital supplies a variety of hardwood logs to clients in the middle east and China. Located near the Port of Wilmington, the company contracts with Royal Pest Solutions (RPS) as Cogent Fibre planned to in Morehead City. RPS treats logs with methyl bromide, using the insecticide to prevent the international spread of invasive pest species and then ships them out in cargo containers.
According to Anne Bookout, Vice President for RPS, the process is a “quarantine and pre-shipment” exemption to the EPA phase out.
“Quarantine treatments are those mandated by a country on imports to protect the country’s agricultural and forestry resources from invasive species. The US regularly requires methyl bromide fumigations of imports to keep pests such as khapra beetle, Asian longhorn beetle, certain pests of agricultural products and others from entering the US, where they would decimate our natural resources. (Japanese beetle and Dutch elm disease are examples where the invasive pest was not caught in time.),” Bookout wrote.
Tima Capital President Timurlan Aitaly said that the middle-eastern and Asian countries his company does business only accept methyl bromide treatments. According to Aitaly, the new permit will allow his company to expand its business.
The company is applying to take over the permit originally issued to Royal Pest Solutions, the company that performs the methyl bromide spraying at the Tima log-preparation facility. The 2013 permit allowed under 10 tons of methyl bromide a year, the new permit allows for a range of use, with a minimum of 31.2 ton and a maximum of 62.4 tons a year.
The permit allows a theoretical use of up to 90 tons, if the facility operates at maximum capacity and sprays logs in bulk piles. The permit assumed that 100 percent of the methyl bromide used will reach the atmosphere although, according to Bookout, some is absorbed by the wood or degrades.
Methyl Bromide (a.k.a. bromomethane)
Methyl Bromide is a toxin, and there have been numerous cases of poisoning, but the chemical is most dangerous in high concentrations. Most of the risk of exposure would be to workers at the plant.
Methyl bromide is a gas and there is apparently little concern at the NCDEQ about ground contamination; there is little evidence to suggest it seeps into the ground or groundwater. In fact, when used in industrial agriculture, the chemical is injected into the ground and then evaporates into the atmosphere.
Once in the atmosphere, however, the chemical has a degrading effect on the ozone layer, which has led to international restrictions on its use.
On the map: Tima Capital is located nearby the National Gypsum plant
Tima Capital is located at 800 Sunnyvale Drive, neighboring the National Gypsum plant – a facility which is the subject of some public debate over proposed local incentives and the plant’s potential formaldehyde emissions. Like National Gypsum, Tima Capital is located in the city’s industrial section, but is also close to the nearby Echo Farms and RiverLights developments.
Both Bookout and Aitaly said they had no concerns about the environmental or health impact on the areas surrounding the facility, and said they had both been in contact with the proper authorities at the NCDEQ.
According to NCDEQ spokeswoman Jill Lucas, Tima Capital’s new permit spells out specific regulations for the facility. These include notifying neighbors of increased use, monitoring both onside and at the property line. Monitoring guidelines mandate a zero-tolerance limit for methyl bromide leaving the facility onto neighboring property.
To comment on Tima Capital’s application, contact Urva Patel at NCDEQ. Mail comments must be postmarked by March 25, 2018.
By phone: 919-707-8405
By Mail: Urva Patel, 1641 Mail Service Center N.C. Division of Air Quality, Raleigh, NC 27699-1641
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.