Coastal fumigation plant plans draw outcry

jmurawski@newsobserver.comJuly 26, 2013 

A proposal to build an industrial fumigation facility near Emerald Isle and the Outer Banks has generated a firestorm of protest and will require public hearings, state officials said this week.

The opposition is coming from the Triangle and also from outside the state as well as from coastal counties. The proposed fumigator would use methyl bromide gas, classified as a hazardous air pollutant, to sterilize logs shipped for export from the state port in Morehead City.

Royal Fumigation, the Delaware company filing the application, has warned that the facility, and accompanying economic benefits, will go to a competing East Coast port if the application is denied here.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has received about 300 emails since the proposal was filed last month. The agency plans to hold public hearings in Morehead City, the site of the proposed fumigator, but the dates have not been set.

“The local economy on the Crystal Coast is based on travel, tourism, and recreation, all of which would be significantly damaged if methyl bromide is used at the port,” said an email signed by four North Carolina residents, including Sue Barnett of Raleigh.

The proposed plant would emit up to 140 tons of the fumigant a year.

Methyl bromide gas is a pesticide used in agriculture and industry to kill insects and weeds and to sterilize soil. It is widely used in the cultivation of strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, nuts and vine crops.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Human exposure to high concentrations of methyl bromide can result in central nervous system and respiratory system failure, as well as specific and severe deleterious actions on the lungs, eyes, and skin.”

The EPA also says that “methyl bromide contributes significantly to the destruction of earth’s stratospheric ozone layer.”

Royal Fumigation, also known as Royal Pest Solutions, applied for an air quality permit on June 28 to build a fumigation facility to treat logs for export.

The Delaware company operates a similar fumigation facility at the state port in Wilmington. That port has had fumigation operations since the 1980s, said DENR spokesman Tom Mather.

In its application, Royal Pest wrote, “Unless the Port can have the logs fumigated prior to shipment, it will not be able to obtain this business, which will then likely go to a competing East Coast port.”

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