Tessenderlo wants to buy port storage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Tessenderlo Davison Chemicals is negotiating to buy a storage terminal at the Natchez-Adams County Port from International Paper, a company official confirmed Tuesday.

The terminal, which TDC subsidiary Davison Trucking has operated for more than 15 years, already employs 20 people and would hire about 10 more, said Steve Nathanson, TDC’s vice president and general manager. The deal is set to be signed March 3.

&uot;Every job is critical right now,&uot; said Michael Ferdinand, executive director of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority. &uot;They’ve been a good corporate citizen (in other locations). We’re pleased they’ve chosen to locate here, and we’ll continue working to assist them with any needs they have.&uot;

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But concerned citizens said they still have environmental and health concerns about the chemicals the facility would store &045; caustic soda and sodium hydrosulfide, which are used in the chemical production and paper industries. Sodium hydrosulfide is considered a toxic chemical by environmental agencies.

Pat Margolin, who organized opposition to Tessenderlo’s first proposed location, said she’s concerned about plant safety, the trucking of chemicals through Natchez and the possibility of chemical facilities being terrorist targets. &uot;I’m prepared to do anything to fight that company coming here,&uot; she said.

This isn’t the first Tessenderlo has considered a location in Adams County in recent years. In January 2003, then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove announced Tessenderlo would locate a chemical mixing and storage facility.

That facility would have been located in the old Ethyl Petroleum building. Then in June, Tessenderlo officials said the company wouldn’t locate there due to uncertainty over the future of rail service to the area &045; concerns Nathanson said have since been resolved.

But in more recent meetings, Canadian National officials said they &uot;had no plans (to pull rail service) in the foreseeable future,&uot; Nathanson said.

And, he added, state Transportation Director Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said if CN pulled out of the area, Brown &uot;would solicit private rail lines to come in and take over the short line between Natchez and Brookhaven.&uot;

In addition, Nathanson said, &uot;the Natchez port is centrally located in one of the highest concentration of pulp and paper mills in the Southeast. And its proximity to the Baton Rouge petrochemical industry and Mississippi and Mobile refineries made it a good location for us.&uot;

Nathanson said TDC is going to refurbish chemical tanks currently at the site, surrounding them with earth-lined berms.

A 24-hour response team will be on site in case of spills.

Since IP cut holes in the steel tanks in order to clean them out after the IP mill closed &045; &uot;holes big enough to run a backhoe through,&uot; Nathanson said &045; TDC will also repair the tanks.

In all, refurbishing the facility is expected to take about six months.

Nathanson said the chemicals, which are caustic, will not be mixed at the site but simply stored at, and transported to and from, the site. The facility’s nine tanks will be able to store up to 400,000 barrels, although only three will be used the first year.

Although the state Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing the environmental permits IP already had for the facility, TDC will probably be required to get a permit for rainwater discharge from the site. With regards to employee health, workers are required to wear protective equipment, including hard hats and face shields, Nathanson said.

Nathanson and other company officials met with Ferdinand, the Mississippi Development Authority’s Paul Walker, county Supervisor S.E. &uot;Spanky&uot; Felter and Adams County residents Peggy Pierrepont and Charlotte Copeland Monday in Natchez to answer any concerns.

&uot;We just wanted to address these issues because it’s important to keep our air and water clean,&uot; Copeland said. &uot;I’m pleased that our EDA is aware of this, and I hope our leaders keep in mind we’re worthy of quality.&uot;

While Copeland said her questions were largely answered, Pierrepont said &uot;100 percent&uot; of her concerns remained even after the meeting.

&uot;This is very bad stuff,&uot; Pierrepont said, referring to chemicals that will be stored at the TDC facility. If Adams County attracts such chemical-related industries, she said, &uot;people Š and (other) businesses might not want to move to Natchez.&uot;

Copeland, Pierrepont and Margolin all said they are concerned about the safety of trucking such chemicals through Natchez.

The overturning of an 18-wheeler that spilled 3,000 gallons of hydrogen peroxide Tuesday in north Adams County shows accidents can happen, they said, although that carrier is not affiliated with TDC.

Nathanson said truck drivers undergo rigorous training that meets or exceeds the standards of the states in which the company is located.

Margolin said she’s also concerned chemical facilities could be a target for terrorists. Nathanson acknowledged the federal government hasn’t given chemical companies much guidance on how to guard against such threats. &uot;But it will be a fenced, monitored facility with restrictive access,&uot; Nathanson said. The company is still evaluating what security personnel will be needed at the site.

But Margolin said this is just the beginning of her fight. She plans to convene the former concerned citizens group as soon as possible.

Steve Olsen, general manager of IP’s Natchez mill, would not comment Tuesday, saying &uot;the transaction (with TDC) is still in progress. It’s not a done deal yet.&uot;