Fate Uncertain For Apex Waste Facility Involved in Explosion
Posted September 14, 2007 8:31 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2007 9:36 a.m. EDT
Apex, N.C. — This week, Environmental Quality Industrial Services reimbursed the town of Apex more than $200,000 for costs related thousands of people being displaced last year by an explosion and fire at the company’s hazardous waste transfer facility.
The company’s future remains a question, however. Apex leaders say they just want this issue resolved.
Right now, operations are suspended at the EQ facility, but the company’s state permit to operate hasn't been officially revoked. Town leaders said they want to know for sure that the company is not coming back.
It's been almost one year since the skies over Apex turned black. The explosion sent a cloud of potentially toxic fumes into the air, and town leaders have been fighting ever since to keep the company from ever doing business in town again.
“We're eager to have this issue resolved, and our citizens are eager to have this behind us,” Mayor Keith Weatherly said.
Five months ago, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources held a public hearing about the future of EQ.
“We thought it was going to be, at the most, 60 days before a decision on the permit, whether it would be formally revoked or not, and we haven't heard a word,” Weatherly said.
The delay in the permit decision process has many people wonder what's taking so long.
“We need to be able to study everything very, very carefully that is germane to this particular incident,” said Cathy Ackroyd of DENR’s Division of Waste Management, which handles facilities such as EQ. “There are a lot of things to consider. There is a legal challenge, so we have to be very careful, and we are being very careful.”
EQ’s lawyers are contesting a $550,000 fine for the explosion. If the state chooses to revoke EQ's permit for the Apex site, the company could apply for a permit elsewhere in North Carolina. State leaders say that if that happens, they will most definitely consider what happened in Apex.
If the state leaves EQ's permit in place, Weatherly said the town has safeguards in place to keep EQ from returning. Town leaders revised ordinances in 2000 to prohibit the use of hazardous waste facilities anywhere in town, and any reopening at EQ would be governed by that.