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NC To Regulate Toxic Pollutant Methyl Bromide

File photo of a pile of logs.
Rick Payette
Flickr, Creative Commons,

State regulators are getting ahead of federal policies in an effort to control a toxic pollutant used in preparing logs for export to China.

The action being taken by the state Department of Environmental Quality would make North Carolina the first state to establish emissions technology control-based standards for log fumigation operations.

North Carolina has five such facilities statewide, and three more awaiting state approval.

These operations fumigate logs prior to transport by putting the wood in shipping containers and applying the pesticide methyl bromide. After fumigation is complete, the container doors are opened and the methyl bromide is allowed to vent into the open air.

The problem is methyl bromide is classified as a toxic pollutant by the federal Clean Air Act. It can cause severe lung and neurological disorders.

Accordingly, DEQ is working on establishing an emissions-control regulation for these operations, according to Mike Abraczinskas, director of DEQ's Division of Air Quality.

"The rule that we're developing would require a minimum of 90 percent capture and control of the fumigant," he said, in a telephone interview.

Abraczinskas said state officials also are writing a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formally requesting the establishment of a federal standard for methyl bromide.

"Developing a rule that requires a minimum control efficiency or a reduction in the emissions from such an operation would fill a regulatory void," Abraczinskas added, referring to the state's efforts.

DEQ will be introducing that draft rule to the Environmental Management Commission at its September meeting.

Also, DEQ will ask the Secretaries' Science Advisory Board to  study the health risks from inhaling methyl bromide and recommend an "Acceptable Ambient Level." Once that rule-making process is complete, methyl bromide would be added to North Carolina's toxic air  pollutant list, Abraczinskas said.

Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC.
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