Gold Coast Commodities asks Rankin County court to restore Pelahatchie wastewater permit

Gold Coast Commodities is asking a Rankin County judge to restore its ability to truck its wastewater to a treatment lagoon in Pelahatchie that was taken away by the Mississippi Permit Board.

The Brandon-based company filed a brief on September 21 in Rankin County Chancery Court in its lawsuit against the Permit Board for its revocation of the company’s wastewater permit. The Permit Board revoked the permit on November 10 and then reaffirmed that decision on April 13. According to earlier filings, the company is trucking its wastewater to a facility in Memphis, Tennessee.

One of the reasons the company says its permit should be restored is that the Permit Board acted illegally in that its members already prejudged the company after a public records request showed several emails that the company found objectionable.

Permit Board member Dennis Riecke to Chairman Jennifer Wittman: “I hope EPA fines [Gold Coast] so bad they cease operations.”

Riecke, in another email obtained by Gold Coast attorneys, said Gold Coast was “bad characters who should go out of business. The poster child for bad corporate citizens. Skewer them.”

Gold Coast attorneys later filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission over the Open Meetings Act, which the commission found was well-taken. Since this was a violation of state law, the attorneys for Gold Coast argue the revocation should be thrown out.

Gold Coast is also trying to argue that the “for cause” revocation was illegitimate since the board didn’t advise Gold Coast of what that constituted until the conclusions of law from the April 13 evidentiary hearing were published. These contained 17 reasons cited by the board as cause for the revocation.

The brief says that represents an arbitrary and capricious condition and the definition of cause came after the fact. The attorneys for Gold Coast also argue that the Permit Board’s authorizing statute or regulations doesn’t create an objective standard or definition for cause.

Gold Coast is a defendant in lawsuits filed by the cities of Brandon and Jackson over alleged damage to their sewer systems plus a lawsuit filed by four electrical contractors who were allegedly overcome by fumes at the Pelahatchie lagoon site.

The Brandon lawsuit will be settled at a jury trial starting on April 11, while a trial date has yet to be set in the lawsuit filed by the city of Jackson.

Gold Coast Commodities dumped its untreated wastewater directly into the sewer systems of first Brandon and then Jackson before the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality ordered it to stop dumping at both locations.

The company later reached an agreement to dump its wastewater at a lagoon in Pelahatchie, which led to odor complaints from nearby landowners and enforcement actions by the MDEQ that led to fines by the Board of Environmental Quality.

Gold Coast utilizes a process to transform used cooking oil and soapstock — which is a byproduct which originates from the refining of soybean and other oils — into animal feed and biodiesel using sulfuric acid. This wastewater is both acidic and extremely hot (to keep it from congealing into a pipe-clogging sludge) and is alleged to have damaged sewer pipes and other infrastructure in both Jackson and Brandon sewer systems.