City To Work With Beef Plant On Wastewater Permit

City To Work With Beef Plant On Wastewater Permit

By Chris Furguson

The Brawley City Council heard an update on a developing situation between the city and the just reopened One World Beef plant during their meeting on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. The situation stems from a announcement made by Brawley City Manager Rosanna Moore on Friday, February 17, that the city would not be issuing a temporary wastewater discharge permit to the plant.

The announcement drew community activists to the meeting and their supporters to the meeting, causing the public comments portion of the meeting to run for nearly two hours. Comments ranged from anger at the city for denying the permit to fear of losing a newly won job to nearly absurd notions over whether or not the city had jurisdiction over the plant itself.

Many OWB workers were also fearful about the alleged closing of the plant and the loss of their jobs. This allegation was declared “false” by several others, including Brawley Mayor Sam Couchman and council member George Nava.
Representatives with One World Beef had also expressed frustration at a “glacially slow approval process.” Armand Nicholai, OWB’s Chief Financial Officer, added that his company had spent $9 million on renovating the plant and had hired nearly 200 workers and had hoped that the city would expedite the process to keep the plant operating.

Regional Water Quality Control Board Executive Director Jose Angel also suggested that the city’s Wastewater treatment plant could handle OWB’s discharge of 238,000 gallons per day. One World Beef’s requested temporary discharge permit would remain in place for a full year while the plant constructed their on-site treatment facility.

Interim City Engineer Jack Holt also added that OWB failed to submit several basic plans for their facility that would have avoided the delays, including property boundaries and electrical plans.

“The current plans would not meet normal standards,” explained Holt. “I baffled why these simple plans were not submitted.”

OWB has been working with a Chilean engineering firm, BioFiltro, on a program that would use wood chips and earthworms to filter the plant’s wastewater for eventual use in a nearby grass field. Once their BioFiltro program is up and running, OWB says there won’t be a need to discharge into the city’s system.

In the end, One World Beef agreed to supply the requested information to the city in order to expedite the process, which could be as soon as tomorrow. However, neither Couchman nor City Manager Moore could give a timeline on how soon an approval could be made.

“It depends on how thorough the information they supply is but it’s too soon to tell,” said Moore. “We will work expeditiously and thoroughly, however.”

The City council also directed city staff to work with the plant on their expired occupancy and business licenses, which expired on January 31 of this year. The city had agreed to give OWB a temporary license in December of last year.

In other Brawley news, the council heard an update on the a condemned trailer park located on the corner of Highway 86 and Malan Street.

The owners of the property have submitted plans to the various agencies for repairs and are waiting for funding and approval.

A manager at the property also said that some residents are hesitant to leave the trailer park, even if better accommodations can be found.

The County and the IID closed the facility last year due to electrical issues and health concerns.