BRAWLEY — Brawley city council promised at their regular meeting Tuesday to work with One World Beef (OWB) in meeting the requirements to acquire a wastewater discharge permit that would allow the plant to use Brawley’s water treatment facility. Using the city’s wastewater system would be a temporary solution until OWB could build its own.
The council chamber was standing room only as residents and business owners filed in to view the proceedings.
OWB has been working to acquire a permit needed to build the wastewater treatment facility. They still have not received their permanant business license or certificate of occupancy.
Because they lack the permit to build the treatment facility, the plant needs a permit to discharge their wastewater into the city’s facility. The wastewater holding ponds owned by OWB are nearing capacity and without a place to discharge wastewater, the plant may have to stop production.
Mayor Sam Couchman began the meeting saying the city may have an understanding with OWB and a clear path to resolve the ongoing issues.
Jose Angel, executive officer for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, was the first to address the council.
“The city does not need further concurrence from the Regional Water Board,” said Angel. “We looked at their request. It was news to us that they needed our concurrence. OWB has our blessing and it is up to the city to give OWB their wastewater permit. The city has an approved pretreatment program and their treatment facility has significant treatment capacity. The city has recourse if OWB does not comply with limits. They have the ability to stop them if there is a problem.”
“National Beef was compliant in their last two years of production, because of the city’s new wastewater treatment plant,” continued Angel. “OWB will be discharging a fraction of what National Beef was discharging. This is a modest request from OWB that the city should be able to handle and is within the discretion of the city manager. It’s up to you.”
Armand Nicholai, One World Beef Chief Financial Officer, expressed his frustration with dealing with the city.
“In light of conversations I had today with council members George Nava and Don Wharton, I will dramatically temper my comments,” said Nicholai. “This decision to convert OWB to a mass-based limit, which would allow us to discharge to the city immediately, would take minutes to OK. We need our permit to discharge, our business license, our certificate of occupancy, and our building permit as soon as possible.”
Rosanna Bayon Moore, city manager, said the final evaluation was in progress.
“With regard to the business license and the certificate of occupancy, we simply need to review and finalize our response,” said Moore. “It’s a question of getting through all of the documents corresponding to the business license and the certificate of occupancy.”
“We are going to give clear direction that we are going to get this done,” said Wharton. “The city still needs information from OWB to get the discharge permit. We are hoping as early as Friday we can get this accomplished.”
Hazel Ocampo, attorney for OWB, also addressed the council.
“It is really regrettable that we have to discuss these things at a city council meeting,” said Ocampo. “This shouldn’t be the case. It’s regrettable that OWB has to spend money on lawyers to help get simple permits for the business license. I’ve never had this much trouble getting a simple business license. In fact, it’s a simple form that the client fills out, sends in, and that’s it. This is unbelievable. Why is it so much harder here?”
Mayor Couchman expressed his desire to see the plant open soon, but emphasized the need to do so in a responsible manner.
“We have the desire to move forward in a timely manner and get OWB in operation,” said Couchman. “I believe we are all in agreement to the direction we are going. It’s our job to protect the citizens of this community.”
Moore laid out to the OWB representatives the information that was still required from OWB for the issuance of the permits and licenses.
“Since there is usually a difference in what is told to us and then the requests change, we would like a letter stating exactly what is needed sent to us,” said Ocampo. “We will respond to each item and there will be no misunderstanding. I just want an outline of what is needed for each item.”
Many residents spoke for or against the beef plant during the discussion. The council thanked those who spoke and attended the meeting for their participation.