Fumigation proposal for N.C. Port of Morehead City concerns residents

Fumigation proposal for N.C. Port of Morehead City concerns residents

MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY - The North Carolina Port of Morehead City is more than 160 years old., and now a proposed plan for the port has many Morehead City residents concerned. The State Port Authority plans to fumigate logs using the poisonous gas, methyl bromide.  

More than 100 people gathered Wednesday night at the Crystal Coast Civic Center to voice their concerns about the proposed plan.

The company, Royal Pest Solutions, applied for the permit for the fumigation operation in June. Port Authority officials want to export southern yellow pine logs, but in order to do that the port has to make sure wood does not have pests in it when its exported to other countries. Royal Pest Solution managers say the fumigation processes would get rid of any unwanted pests in the logs.

Jeff Marshall, Vice President of SCS Engineers, said fumigation is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for all imports and exports.

"The risk outweighs the benefits. There's just no better alternative to treat the pests under certain situations," Marshall said.

Many residents who attended the event were concerned the fumigating chemical, methyl bromide, could be hazardous to the environment.

Mollie Wildes said she is worried the gas would pollute the air and water quality of Morehead City.

"I moved here in 1999, and one week after I moved here there was the ethanol plant fight, and it's every few years a new dangerous chemical company pops up and wants to pollute our area," Wildes said.

The Environmental Protection Agency said methyl bromide has been phased out for use in the U.S. since 2005 because it depletes the ozone layer. Marshall said the fumigation gas is allowed in some cases for shipping. He said this type of chemical is different, and there are ways to make sure it doesn't affect the city.

"Fumigation with methyl bromide is different because it is a gas. It's injected as a gas under a tall tarp, and when we're done it's aerated and there's essentially zero left over," he said.

Morehead City Mayor Pro-Tem Harvey Walker said the final decision will be what the people want.

"My take on the whole thing is do it someplace else, but you can't blame these guys for doing what they do. They're a business. It's up to us to decide what we want," he said.

Port officials said a public hearing will be held on the fumigation project before a final decision is made.

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