A Brandon-based chemical plant has been the subject of scrutiny since 2017 as its wastewater disposal methods have resulted in numerous regulatory orders, a lawsuit by the city of Brandon and a federal investigation.
Gold Commodities transforms used cooking oil and soapstock — which is a malodorous byproduct resulting from the refining of soybean and other oils — into animal feed and biodiesel using sulfuric acid. The wastewater from this process must be mixed with caustic material and maintained a high temperature to prevent it from congealing into a pipe-clogging sludge.
The wastewater is highly corrosive and the temperature required to keep it in a liquid state makes it even more damaging to sewer pipes. Environmental regulators have now ordered the company to stop dumping its wastewater into Brandon, Jackson and now Pelahatchie.
Here’s a timeline of the Gold Coast story:
2014 – Gold Coast Commodities reaches a deal to transport its wastewater to Pelahatchie’s sewage treatment facility for disposal.
October 6, 2016 – The city of Brandon complains to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality that acidic wastewater was being discharged into its sewer system by Gold Coast.
October 10, 2016 – Gold Coast, after only sending a few wastewater trucks to Pelahatchie, is observed by DEQ inspectors to begin regularly disposing of its wastewater in Pelahatchie.
November 2016 – The city of Brandon puts monitors on Gold Coast’s discharge point into its sewer system to see if the company is dumping wastewater illegally into its system.
December 2016 – Gold Coast starts trucking its wastewater to Rebel High Velocity Services in Jackson for disposal, which was directly into the city of Jackson’s sewer system.
February 2017 – The city of Brandon investigates what damage was caused by Gold Coast wastewater and found severe damage to pipes of both concrete and lined ductile iron pipe construction.
October 27, 2017 – The Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality issues an order requiring Gold Coast to stop disposing of its wastewater with Rebel High Velocity Sewer Services in Jackson.
July 10, 2018 – The city of Brandon files a lawsuit against Gold Coast Commodities for dumping of its wastewater into Brandon’s sewer system, which the city alleges was damaged.
May 2020 – DEQ receives complaints of nuisance level odors from the Pelahatchie lagoon.
June 12, 2020 – DEQ inspectors detect odors at the Pelahatchie lagoon site where they find non-working aerators required by their permit and they issue a notice of violation.
July 20, 2020 – DEQ issues a second notice of violations over the Pelahatchie lagoon. Emergency services were called when workers at the lagoon became ill after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas.
July 21, 2020 – 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.
August 20, 2020 – Rebel High Velocity Sewer Services owner Andrew Walker is indicted on charges of violating the Clean Water Act by discharging more than 3 million gallons of untreated wastewater into Jackson’s sewer system.
August 30, 2020 – The DEQ issues a notice of violation for a spill into nearby Dry Creek of 418,000 gallons of untreated wastewater from the Pelahatchie lagoon. The DEQ issues a water contact advisory for the creek’s waters.
September 11, 2020 – The Commission orders Gold Coast to stop dumping its wastewater in Pelahatchie.
September 16, 2020 – Walker pleads not guilty in his appearance before federal Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson to charges of discharging more than 3 million gallons of Gold Coast wastewater into Jackson’s system.
September 23, 2020 – Three workers file suit in Rankin County Circuit Court over exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas from a company that was contracted by Gold Coast to put in an electrical panel to control the aerators at the Pelahatchie site.
October 1, 2020 – The Commission orders Gold Coast to remove and dispose of all the wastewater in the Pelahatchie lagoons.
November 10, 2020 – The state Permit Board votes unanimously to revoke the wastewater permit for Gold Coast to dispose of its wastewater in Pelahatchie. Gold Coast appeals the decision and requests an evidentiary hearing.
January 27 – Walker pleads guilty in federal court to pollution related charges. Walker could face a total of eight years in prison, with five for the conspiracy charge and three years for the charge of discharging industrial wastewater illegally. Fines on up to $250,000 can be levied on each count.
March 17 - The city of Brandon will bring its case for summary judgement against Gold Commodities on August 18 according to a March filing in Rankin County Chancery Court.
April 13 – The Permit Board votes to revoke Gold Coast’s wastewater disposal permit after an evidentiary hearing.
April 16 – Attorneys for Gold Coast appeal the Permit Board’s decision in Hinds County Chancery Court.