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By Erin Smith

Issues with capacity and wastewater discharges have led to the Carroll Poultry plant sitting idle in the Bladenboro Industrial Park. The plant has been fined numerous times by the town for exceeding their wastewater discharge permit.

On Monday night, the Bladenboro Town Board voted unanimously to initiate the process to revoke the discharge permit for Carroll Poultry. Interim Town Administrator Melanie Hester told the board the company had not paid the last two fines which were levied against them. She added the company is continuing to make payments on the first fine received.

The vote to revoke the permit for Carroll Poultry came after the board heard from Bricklyn Rooks, owner of Southern Belle Organics, regarding a second poultry processing company that is seeking to locate in the Bladenboro Industrial Park. He told the board he owns the building that once functioned as a goat/chicken processing plant in the Bladenboro Industrial Park.  He was present on behalf of a company, which remained unnamed, that is seeking to locate a poultry processing facility in the industrial park.

“We’ve been there for about three or four years now and we’ve invested a couple of million dollars in and around Bladenboro, in Bladenboro, and we’ve got another project probably about four miles outside of town,” said Rooks.

He told the board that the investment the new company is willing to make is a  “pretty good deal.” Rooks said he will be staying on with the group in a partnership if the proposed project is developed.

“I’m just trying to get an idea of what you (the board) are thinking. Last time you met you were waiting to see what Carroll (Poultry) was going to do,” said Rooks.

He requested the board to give the new poultry company some type of an answer regarding whether or not they will be allowed to locate in Bladenboro.

Rooks said the proposal will allow for the creation of about 72 jobs. The company is a nationwide company with a market in Japan. He explained the company in question will bringing in meat that has already been carved and processed and turning it into a “value added product.”

Rooks said the company is requesting a maximum of 35,000 gallons of water.

“I’d just hate to see 72 jobs walk away from Bladenboro,” said Rooks.

“What kind of time frame are you looking at?” asked Town Commissioner Greg Sykes.

“Probably within the next 20 days,” said Rooks.

He said the company is actively looking for a location and they are ready to begin setting up their operation. Rooks explained his facility has everything the company will need in place.

The board asked Interim Town Administrator Melanie Hester if her staff have heard from Carroll’s Poultry. She replied no.

“According to the permit we have for Carroll Poultry, if we decide to terminate we have to allow them at least 30 days to respond and have a hearing on it to see if they can alleviate the issues before we can actually terminate. We have to give them due process,” said Hester.

Mayor Rufus Duckworth asked, “They have not paid anything on their fines have they?”

“Well they are still paying on the one that is attached to their bill, but they haven’t paid anything on the last two,” said Hester.

“I’d hate for you to tie your entire industrial park’s wastewater on one group,” said Rooks.

He explained even if the new project does not go through, Rooks said he didn’t want to see the industrial park’s growth hindered by the wastewater issue.

“Can we put a deadline on Carroll Poultry and let them have their due process?” asked Town Commissioner Sykes.

Hester injected, “I think there are two parts to this you all need to take into consideration. First is resolve Carroll Poultry. We can send them a letter and tell them we are planning to terminate their CUIP permit and they have to respond within 30 days with some kind of plan or explanation of what they are going to do.”

Sykes also asked Rooks if the new company. asked Town Commissioner Sykes.

“I can’t speak for them,” said Rooks.

Hester also reminded the board that former Town Administrator John O’Daniel, who has resigned his position, was handling the situation with Carroll Poultry.

Hester said it is her understanding that Carroll Poultry is attempting to install tanks and design a plan to handle the wastewater issue.

Rooks said the new company is receiving their supplies already precut, so they will not need as much wastewater capacity as Carroll Poultry.

Mayor Duckworth said, “We don’t have the capacity. It’s not a waste treatment plant thing.  It is based on what our discharge permit is with the State.”

Bladen County Economic Development Director Chuck Heustess was not present at the Monday night meeting. On Tuesday, Heustess said the Carroll Poultry plant has been idle for several months while the owners work to find a solution to the wastewater issue. Heustess said Carroll Poultry miscalculated the volume of wastewater the plant would generate when they initially applied fo their permit from the town.

“The town has worked really hard trying to help them operate,” said Heustess.

He said Carroll Poultry is trying to find a way to transport their wastewater to Lumberton.

“The town’s limit is a hard limit,” Heustess explained about Bladenboro’s wastewater limit.

When asked about the new (unnamed) poultry processing company and whether or not the board will grant them a permit, Mayor Duckworth said, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

The board voted unanimously to send a letter to Carroll Poultry notifying them of the town’s intention to terminate the wastewater permit. The company will now have 30 days to respond to the town’s letter.

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