HARRISBURG, N.C. - Channel 9's investigation of a steel processing plant in Harrisburg got the attention of state regulators, who have since cited the plant with a violation for damaging property at neighboring businesses.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality sent inspectors to Galvan Industries on Highway 49 in July. DEQ's investigation found what neighboring business owners have been complaining about to Channel 9 since 2006. The owners said dust from the plant is damaging their property.
Business owners in the office complex that shares a fence line with the plant have continually complained of rust-colored dust staining cars, expensive equipment and the façade of their businesses.
"It appears that emissions from Galvan are being deposited on adjacent property and causing visible discoloration," DEQ's inspectors wrote in a report in July. "Therefore, a letter will be sent to Galvan informing them of our findings and instructing them to develop a plan to minimize their emissions."
DEQ sent the letter to Galvan Industries describing why inspectors believe the company is violating a state regulation. Channel 9 obtained a copy of the letter Friday, which was dated July 31.
The letter said inspectors visited the property on July 9 and July 11. They found Galvan is violating a condition of its air permit, which requires the plant be operated in a manner that minimizes air pollution.
"Based on our observations, DEQ is instructing you to review your operations and consider additional measures to minimize particulate emissions from the galvanizing building," the letter states.
Galvan Industries Inc. is a galvanizing plant that has been in operation in Harrisburg since the 1950s.
The plant was first featured in a Channel 9 investigation in 2006 when former reporter Jim Bradley received complaints from local business owners.
After years of back and forth between Galvan and frustrated neighbors, the steel processing plant installed a machine to collect dust in 2013.
Galvan Industries, Inc. president Laurens Willard described the equipment to Channel 9 in an email Thursday.
"Galvan Industries voluntarily installed a state-of-the-art handling system designed to collect visible emissions from our facility," Willard said. "We opted to incur this significant expense, without requirement, in an effort to be a good neighbor to businesses in the area."
But Channel 9 returned to Harrisburg this summer because neighboring business owners said the equipment hasn't stopped dust from damaging their property.
Bonita Pickett has owned a business next door for more than 10 years. She said she was excited when Galvan installed the machine in 2013, but it has let her down.
"They've told us, 'Oh, there's a problem with it,'" Pickett said. "They're working on it."
Pickett said she doesn't believe the air handling system, also called an air scrubber, is doing its job.
"The scrubber, which is an electrical unit, has a green light and a red light," Pickett said. "If it's on it's green, if it's off it's red. Neither light's on. the wire is just swinging in the wind."
Channel 9 contacted Willard, the plant's owner, Friday asking if he's pleased with the air scrubber's performance. He responded Tuesday.
Galvan Industries’ president said the equipment is effective, and employees typically run it 24 hours a day, five days a week.
"We are reviewing all best management practices to determine if there are other measures we can take to further minimize dust from our plant, and we will respond to the DEQ shortly,"
Galvan Industries has until the end of the month to respond to DEQ.
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