BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Following a permit denial and complaint filed by the Jefferson County Department of Health against Bluestone Coke, a hearing officer is now allowing the company to continue operations pending new requirements.
Last month, JCDH announced it would not renew the coke production facility’s permit over continued violations.
The health department told CBS 42 back in May, that it first issued a Notice of Violation in July 2020. Just over a year later, according to court documents, the department filed a complaint against Bluestone Coke and denied the company a Title V Air Permit following further inspection of the facility.
The complaint cites numerous on-going leaks and other issues with Bluestone Coke’s operations. These violations mean the toxins being emitted into the air could put people or the environment at risk.
A Title V Air Permit is needed for companies that are major sources of air pollution to operate in Jefferson County.
The permit denial from JCDH means Bluestone does not have an up-to-date permit, however, the company found a way around that.
Bluestone filed a motion to stay, which was granted by a hearing officer pending a few requirements. The order allows Bluestone to operate as long as the company submits a written plan on how it will come into compliance with the regulations. A status conference call was scheduled for Aug. 27 and a pre-trial hearing will be held on Sept. 10 over Zoom.
The Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (GASP) said the health department’s actions are a step in the right direction, but they will continue to fight to shut down Bluestone’s operations.
“Bluestone has been engaging in reckless behavior,” said GASP Deputy Director Kirsten Bryant. “Bluestone coke has been caught violating the law.”
Charlie Powell, a former North Birmingham resident who has since started the group People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination (PANIC) told CBS 42 the damage has been done and him and his neighbors are seeking compensation to be relocated.
“I’m going to die doing this ’till we get justice,” he said. “I probably ain’t going to die ’till we get justice.”
Birmingham City Council President William Parker said the city plans to bring the issue to state leaders and possibly even the federal government if needed, to take action against Bluestone and help the residents in North Birmingham.
“I think it [Bluestone Coke] needs to be shutdown number one, but obviously we’re going to continue to work with the health department, whatever tool we need to utilize in the city of Birmingham we will explore it,” Parker explained.
CBS 42 reached out to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency and both agencies said they are not involved with the legal action against Bluestone Coke. The EPA said that it is aware of the complaint followed by the health department.
After repeated attempts, Bluestone Coke did not respond to CBS 42’s request for an interview.
The Jefferson County Department of Health would not provide any comment, citing the pending litigation.
Stay with CBS 42 for more on this developing story.