State regulators issue discharge permit for $43 million turpentine plant in Effingham

State regulators have issued a discharge permit for a turpentine plant in Effingham County, bringing it one step closer to operation.

 

The privately held French company DRT America has nearly completed the construction of a $43 million plant in the Effingham Industrial Park on the east side of Ga. 21 at Ebenezer Road. The plant expects to employ 40. It will produce rosin and turpentine oil used in perfumes, adhesives, chewing gum and other products.

On Thursday, the state Environmental Protection Division issued the company a pretreatment permit for its onsite wastewater treatment system. But that pretreated industrial waste must be further processed before it can be discharged to the environment. One possibility is for the city of Springfield to accept the waste at its municipal water treatment plant, which was also issued a new permit Thursday.

That municipal plant is located on Ebenezer Creek, a black water tributary of the Savannah River. The creek, designated a wild and scenic river, is beloved for its massive cypress trees and rich history. Effingham and other coastal residents protested DRT’s permit at a May hearing, concerned about the effects on the creek.

The state received more than 55 written comments on the pretreatment facility and responded to them in a 37-page document released with the permit on Thursday. Few changes were evident from draft to final stage.

The permit lists 45 organic chemicals to limit and monitor, but the company expects only one of those chemicals, toluene, to be present in its waste stream. It will also be required to control for hardness, ammonia, total organic carbon, phosphorous, specific conductivity and sulfates. Special conditions in the permit prohibit the wastewater from contaminating Springfield’s municipal sludge or passing through pollution that results in toxicity to aquatic life in Ebenezer Creek.

DRT America President Corey Schneider said the company does not yet have a contract with Springfield but that talks are ongoing.

The plant is several weeks away from start up, Schneider said.

DRT America is not located in Springfield and the city had no control over its zoning or permitting. Nor is it legally compelled to accept the company’s industrial waste. In a press release issued in May, Mayor Barton Alderman made clear the city would not approve an agreement with DRT until “after a pre-treatment permit is issued, and not until all of its questions are answered satisfactorily, including questions related to the nature of the discharges and any potential impact the treated industrial wastewater would have on the environment, particularly Ebenezer Creek.”

Alderman said Tuesday he had not yet read the final permits. He plans to meet with the city manager and Springfield’s water and sewer experts to review them after the city manager returns from vacation next week. Then he’ll call a special meeting of council, possibly as early as late August, to address the issue.

“Council will meet and decide if the permits are something we can live with, if it’s something we’re expecting,” he said. “Then we’ll vote on it.”

At DRT America, Schneider said the company is “working on contingency plans” in case it can’t come to an agreement with Springfield.

Read the permits: EPD posts water treatment permits in alphabetical order at http://bit.ly/2vGAXa6

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