At its scheduled meeting today, the Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality voted to hold an evidentiary hearing about Gold Coast Commodities on November 19.
Gold Coast is a Brandon-based manufacturer that transforms used cooking oil and soapstock — which is a byproduct resulting from the refining of soybean and other oils — into animal feed and biodiesel using sulfuric acid.
The wastewater generated from this process has to be kept hot, lest it cool and congeal into a pipe-clogging sludge, and it can be extremely corrosive.
Gold Coast reached a deal with the city of Pelahatchie to dump its wastewater there after it could no longer use the sewer systems of Brandon and Jackson to dump its wastewater. The company is accused of dumping its wastewater in the sewer systems of both Brandon and Jackson, with the city of Brandon having filed a lawsuit to recover damages related to its sewer system.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality ordered the company to stop dumping its wastewater in Pelahatchie on September 11 after issuing a notice of violations concerning a spill on August 30 of 418,000 gallons of wastewater into nearby Dry Creek, resulting in a fish kill and the DEQ issuing a water contact advisory for the creek’s waters.
A second order was issued on October 1 after an inspection found the company to be in continued violation of the September order.
Fines, penalties and other sanctions could be levied by the commission if Gold Coast is found to have been in violation of its permits. According to the meeting agenda item concerning Gold Coast, it said that “the interim executive director (now permanent DEQ Executive Director Chris Wells) has found the respondent has demonstrated an apparent inability or lack of willingness to comply with its permit, as well as applicable laws and regulations.”
The environmental watchdog agency received at least 11 odor complaints about the Pelahatchie site in 2020.
An inspection on June 12 at the Pelahatchie site found that Gold Coast had not installed the required aerators in the disposal lagoons and odors were detected both on and off site.
On July 20, Gold Coast finally began operation of the aerators after eight months of discharging its wastewater into the lagoon and emergency services were called when workers present at the lagoon became ill after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas.
On July 21, air monitors installed by the DEQ detected hydrogen sulfide gas at a concentration eight parts per million more than the 10-minute emergency exposure guidance level of 50 parts per million.
Andrew Walker is the owner of the company, Rebel High Velocity Sewer Services, that Gold Coast paid to dispose of its wastewater into Jackson’s sewer system. Walker was indicted by the federal government on August 20 on charges of violating the Clean Water Act. He pleaded not guilty in his appearance before federal Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson on September 16.