The company handling the creosote-treated railroad ties for Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) in Colbert is seeking an air permit from the state Environmental Protection Division so that it can lawfully grind the ties at the facility.

National Salvage and Service Corporation was issued a “Notice of Violation” Feb. 10 from the EPD for “failure to obtain a permit” to grind the ties at the GRP facility. National Salvage applied for an air permit from the EPD in April.

In that application, the company stated that “the grinder has a potential throughput of 100 tons of railroad ties per hour.”

The burning of railroad ties, which are treated with creosote, a carcinogen, at GRP has been a source of great distress for a number of residents around the area, who say their lives have been severely compromised by the burning of creosote and the sound of the plant.

GRP has the legal authority under the EPD to burn the crossties, but that could soon change. The House of Representatives unanimously passed HB857 in March, which would ban the burning of creosote-treated railroad ties as a fuel source. But that bill has stalled due to the coronavirus shutdown. The Senate is slated to convene in June and citizens groups have sent all senators packets detailing their issues with the plant, especially as it relates to the grinding and burning of the crossties at the site. They have asked senators to pass HB857 this summer.

Meanwhile, National Salvage is moving forward with the permit process to bring the grinding of the ties in line with state environmental guidelines. The ties must be chipped before they can be burned as fuel.

National Salvage says it meets state guidelines on emissions.

“Based on a process input rate of 100 tons per hour, the grinder would be limited to 51.3 lb/hr of particulate emissions,” the application states. “Based on the potential emission calculations for the facility, the grinder is in compliance with this limit.”

The National Salvage application notes that the EPD “requires facilities to take reasonable precautions to prevent emissions of fugitive dust and limits fugitive dust emissions to no more than 20-percent opacity.” “NSSC (National Salvage) will take reasonable precautions to limit the fugitive dust emissions at the facility,” the application states.

The EPD is taking public comments on the National Salvage air permit application until June 19. Comments can be sent to EPD.Comments@dnr.ga.gov.

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