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Refinery to host public meeting Wednesday in Westlake

Last Modified: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:47 AM

By Frank DiCesare / American Press

Westlake residents will have an opportunity this week to comment on a petrochemical company’s proposal to change how it diverts hazardous waste away from wetlands.

Representatives from Eagle US 2 LLC, a subsidiary of Axiall Corp., will host a public meeting Wednesday night at Westlake City Hall to accept comments stemming from their recent application for a hazardous waste permit modification from the state Department of Environmental Quality. Eagle officials filed the application on behalf of Axiall in June.

If the permit modification is issued, Axiall will replace its waste withdrawal wells with a permanent groundwater barrier along its north dock next to Bayou Verdine. Axiall now uses its wells to pump chlorinated hydrocarbons away from the bayou. The company now seeks to seal off the area with its proposed barrier, said Will F. Steele, a DEQ environmental scientist.

“They will drive sheet walls down around the unit or alongside the unit, depending on what the situation is, as a physical block,” he said. “Previously, they were using pumped wells where they pumped the groundwater to make it flow away or so they could control its flow. Now they want to move to a more physical barrier.”

Chlorinated hydrocarbons are chemical compounds that consist of chlorine, hydrogen and carbon atoms. They are insoluble in water. Many chlorinated hydrocarbons are used to manufacture pharmaceuticals, plastics and insecticides.

Some of Axiall’s wells will remain open for a period of time. The company’s main hazardous waste control, however, will be the new barrier. The north dock area is where Axiall’s boats come in to send their products off to market, Steele said.

Axiall was formed in January when PPG Industries’ commodity chemicals division and Georgia Gulf merged. Eagle is the Axiall subsidiary that holds all of the hazardous waste permits that were initially issued to PPG. Eagle is also responsible for Axiall’s hazardous waste cleanup and remediation.

Bill Goulet, Eagle’s remediation specialist, said Axiall’s current wells are nearly 25 years old and failing. He said a barrier wall is a more modern and reliable system.

“A barrier wall does not rely on electricity or any other utility,” Goulet said. “So during a hurricane, a wall will still function during power outages. Wells can and will go down.”

Goulet said Eagle is still evaluating what kind of a barrier will be installed, adding that it would most likely be made of solid steel. He said the barrier’s cost is estimated to be $2 million.

If DEQ approves Eagle’s permit modification, Goulet said, construction on the new barrier will begin in fall or winter.

DEQ officials required Eagle to hold the meeting, along with a 60-day comment period, to address any public concerns. The comment period began June 27 and will end Aug. 26. Once Eagle’s application and all public comments have been reviewed, Steele said, DEQ will decide whether to issue the permit modification in its current form or with changes. DEQ also has the option to deny it.

Axiall’s permit, initially issued to PPG in June 2010, addresses the company’s short- and long-term cleanup responsibilities. The permit is part of the federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act of 1976, which governs hazardous waste management and disposal.

Steele suggested that residents submit their comments to Eagle in writing during Wednesday’s meeting. Residents can also submit comments directly to DEQ. Wednesday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Westlake Council Chambers.

“A meeting like this, it’s not like a hearing where you have a hearing officer and you have the clerk taking an official record of it,” Steele said. “The companies take in the comments. When our department rep goes to this meeting he will also take notes. All comments will be sent to our office for review.”

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