Jackson city workers will be examining the city’s sewer system for possible damage from the dumping of corrosive discharge trucked in from a Brandon-based manufacturer that is already being sued by the city of Brandon.
The owner of the company that dumped the wastewater into the city’s sewer system is under federal indictment.
Makani Themba, director of communications for Jackson, told the Northside Sun that once the analysis is performed, city officials will review the matter.
The city could file a lawsuit of its own, depending on the analysis that will determine whether the discharge caused damaged to the city’s aging sewer system. In a lawsuit filed by the city of Brandon, Gold Coast Commodities is accused of dumping highly corrosive, high-temperature wastewater into the city’s sewer system, damaging pipes downstream.
Gold Coast, which was founded in 1983, 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 company claims on its website to be environmentally friendly and having a commitment to being a responsible global citizen.
Waste from the Gold Coast facility is mixed with caustic material (usually sodium hydroxide) and must be kept hot to keep it from solidifying, requiring special care in disposal. The company moves the 6,000 gallons of wastewater per week to disposal tanks awaiting disposal.
According to the lawsuit filed by the city of Brandon, Gold Coast later contracted with Rebel High Velocity Sewer Services (which is part of Walker Environmental Services), which trucked the corrosive wastewater to Jackson and dumped it into the city’s sewer near the Savannah Street plant.
Rebel’s owner Andrew Walker was indicted by federal government on August 20 on charges of violating the Clean Water Act by discharging prohibited substances into Jackson’s sewer system. He pleaded not guilty in his appearance before federal Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson on September 16.
Gold Coast shifted to Rebel for wastewater disposal after Brandon city officials started to monitor the discharge point near Gold Coast’s facility in Brandon for any further illegal discharges starting in November 2016.
Rebel High Velocity Sewer Services dumped the wastewater into the Jackson system from December 2016 to October 2017, when the MDEQ issued an order demanding that it stop dumping the same corrosive wastewater into Jackson’s sewer system without proper authorization.
The order from the DEQ for Rebel says that the corrosive wastewater produced by Gold Coast and dumped into the Jackson sewer system by Rebel could cause problems for the embattled Savanna Street plant, which has been under a federal consent decree since 2012.
Jackson has received a $30 million bond from the state revolving loan fund, with $27 million earmarked for repairs at the wastewater treatment facility in south Jackson.
Gold Coast then reached an agrement with the city of Pelahatchie to dispose of its wastewater in a lagoon at the city’s treatment facility.
On September 11, the DEQ ordered Gold Coast to stop dumping its wastewater at the Pelahatchie treatment facility after an inspection on June 12 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.
According to the U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration, prolonged exposure to concentrations of just 2 to 5 ppm can cause nausea, headaches and airway problems in some asthma patients. 50 ppm and above can cause slight conjunctivitis and respiratory tract irritation. Prolonged, unprotected exposure to a concentration of 100 ppm can cause death.
According to the lawsuit, an investigation by the city showed that Gold Coast was dumping “significant amounts” of hot, corrosive, low-pH wastewater into Brandon’s sewer system, which corroded pipes downstream of the company’s discharge point.
High levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, sodium and sulfates were found at where Gold Coast discharged into the city’s sewer system and downstream. The lawsuit also says that low pH levels (highly acidic) and solidified oil and grease have infiltrated Brandon’s sewer system downstream of Gold Coast’s discharge point, necessitating additional repairs.
The wastewater, according to the complaint, corroded the downstream sewer pipes so much that they collapsed, causing untreated wastewater to flow out of the city’s sewer system. This required the city to spend significant amounts of money to repair and replace these failures. The city of Brandon, represented by Keith Turner of Watkins & Eager and former Mississippi state representative and attorney general candidate Mark Baker, is seeking injunctive relief, punitive damages and attorney fees.
According to the lawsuit, Gold Coast had a contract with the city of Pelahatchie to dispose of the waste at that city’s sewage treatment plant at least once or twice per week.
The investigation into Gold Coast started on October 6, 2016, when Brandon officials told the DEQ that corrosive discharge was being put into the city’s sewer system.
According to the complaint, in the first 10 months of 2016, Gold Coast only transported wastewater to Pelahatchie twice, which the city of Brandon says shows that the company continued to discharge illegally its wastewater into the sewer system.
After DEQ inspectors visited the Gold Coast facility, truckloads of Gold Coast wastewater started show up regularly in Pelahatchie. On October 10, 2016, investigators observed the disposal efforts and found the wastewater was dark brown, smelled of used oil and was steaming and foaming as it was poured from the truck into the lagoon.
On a follow up visit by investigators to Gold Coast, defendant Thomas Douglas claimed the wastewater was sent to Pelahatchie only infrequently because it was used to mix into Gold Coast’s product to adjust fat content based on customer requests.
In contravention of its contract with the city of Pelahatchie, Gold Coast officials admitted that they hadn’t been recording the pH level, amount, date and time of wastewater disposal.