Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008
By Rupert Howell
In an effort to soften the impact of information concerning a Como plant’s release of material in the municipality’s sewage system, Thomasville Tier-Rack vice president Ward Wilson said Monday that an error of judgement may have been made by accepting verbal approval to release instead of written approval.
Como Mayor Judy Sumner told her board last week that Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) ordered that the metal fabricator be cut off from the town’s sewer system at her first meeting in the mayor’s seat.
Meeting Monday with representatives of Como and Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons, Wilson explained through a Powerpoint presentation the company’s operation which included introduction to a recently installed dry-powder paint system that is much more friendly to the environment than the wet-paint process of the past.
Paul Holloway, who monitors the municipality’s sewer system, said that although the system could handle the material, accepting the industrial run-off would require upgrading treatment and monitoring of the sewer system.
Wilson had explained that his company had satisfied MDEQ and a “draft permit is in process now.”
But the city must agree, post public notice and have a 30-day period to accept comments. The City of Como must also have the capacity, ability and willingness to maintain the certification which Holloway estimated would cost the already cash-strapped town another $200,000.
Wilson downplayed the toxicity of material being released noting that most comes from preparation or cleaning of the steel before painting and likened it to chemicals used in car washes.
The paint system includes a three stage wash system that uses tanks, pumps and sprayers that recirculate water and cleansing agents. The drain system on the wash tanks is tied to the city sewer system.
This installation method was designed by professional contractors and system integrators who build similar systems nationwide according to Wilson who added, the tie-in to the sewer system was done with the assistance and participation of the City of Como.
The plant in Lexington, North Carolina uses a similar system that is tied to the municipal sewer system.
In April the plant performed a periodic draining of the wash tank and the influx into the Como system, apparently created a reportable event in the monitoring station at the treatment center.
Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons spoke up and informed Como and company officials that if the municipality wasn’t able to handle the release of that factory, he would have trouble landing other industry in proposed industrial sites nearby and suggested that Como officials get an estimate of cost and specifications to upgrade the treatment facility.
Simmons explained that he and other community leaders were going to Washington this fall to seek funding for special needs including infrastructure at potential industrial sites.
Wilson had earlier explained that material can be held in tanks and carried to proper disposals twice each year at an annual cost of $3,000. He said the new painting system and availability of space would give them the ability to grow if the opportunity arose.
The Company headquartered in St. Louis has two production plants, the Como plant and another in North Carolina. The Como plant hires between 40 and 90 workers, depending on orders, who produce patented and custom-made storage rack systems.
According to Wilson, the company currently produces 55 percent of the privately held company’s product.
Wilson and plant manager Richard Weeks assured Como Mayor Judy Sumner that the plant would not use the sewer system to flush tanks but could not plug the line because restrooms and sinks were hooked up to the system also.
Alderman Clark Gregory gave his approval to the dry-paint system stating, “The air is better than it was. I can tell just by driving by.”
Responding to a question by City Attorney Parker Still, Wilson said, “No damage to the (sewer) lines that we know of.”