State hits owners of burning Parkersburg plant with enforcement order

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued an order to the company that owns a Parkersburg warehouse that has been on fire since early Saturday, demanding information about what materials were stored on the property.

DEP is also demanding to know how Intercontinental Export Import, Inc. plans to properly dispose of the material.

MORE: Read the compliance order.

Those issues have been a recurring, frustrating question all week for both public officials and citizens.

IEI operates several warehouses in the Parkersburg area, including the one that has been burning. Inspectors know the warehouses contain materials in the form of pellets, flake, strand, beads, granules and resins — but not specifically what was in the plant when the fire started.

The managers of IEI have been meeting with state and local officials and have promised their cooperation, but the progress has been slow. The plant has been burning since 12:30 a.m. Saturday and continues to burn, although local leaders have described headway in putting out the blaze on the 10-acre property.

During a Wednesday news conference, state and local officials again said the owners of the property had told them the best information about the material in the warehouse was on paperwork that burned up in the fire.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said the owners provided a Material Safety Data Sheet in a three-ring binder, but it wasn’t current.

“And so we did a leaf-through with that with some industry experts,” he said. “We compiled a short list on it. We had further discussion. They said not all of it was there.”

The order by the Division of Environmental Protection represents recognition that state officials need to press the issue, said Lawrence Messina, a state spokesman who has served this week as the point of contact for the emergency operations center in Parkersburg.

“We now need to ratchet up this very important search for answers with regulatory action,” said Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Today’s order directs  Intercontinental Export Import to immediately provide Division of Environmental Protection a detailed inventory of all materials that were burned at Plant 1.

The warehouse and its operator have been the subject of several enforcement actions by DEP in recent years over water pollution concerns.

Today’s DEP order directs IEI to immediately take measures to comply with all terms and conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

Within 30 days, IEI is to submit any remaining information requested by DEP for issuance of the NPDES permit modification to incorporate regulated activity at IEI’s Plant No. 2, which is adjacent to the plant that burned. Plant No. 2 did not burn.

And within 10 days, IEI is to submit a plan of corrective action, outlining completion dates for how and when the company will achieve compliance with all terms of its NPDES permits.

The plan must include proof of proper disposal of the material burned and provisions for providing detailed inventories of all other sites in West Virginia that are owned by companies associated with IEI. Officials have said the property owns several other warehouses in the Parkersburg area.

The company is also to pay the entire amount of the penalty held in abeyance — $60,622.50 — after a 2015 settlement agreement with IEI. DEP says IEI has not held up its end of the deal to provide discharge monitoring reports.

During DEP inspections of IEI’s properties in 2016, regulators noted several violations including poor housekeeping, scattered waste, a leaking drum and visible plastic pellets in a discharge.

Followup site visits during this past year showed that IEI remained out of compliance.

Today’s order came from DEP’s Division of Waste Management.

When Gov. Jim Justice was in Parkersburg earlier this week, he emphasized the need for the timely and open disclosure of information.

Both the governor and local officials emphasized that they want to provide information as soon as it’s reliable.

“I am for full transparency. On everything. All the time,” Justice said. “This business of sweeping something under the rug and not letting all of us know is not good with me. I will try every way I can to make sure everything is transparent. Everything.”