BRAWLEY– The Brawley City Council Tuesday gave approval to One World Beef’s (OWB) request to have former beef plant owner National Beef’s rescinded wastewater discharge permit reinstated and transferred to the new company.
That reinstatement and transfer of National Beef’s wastewater discharge permit to OWB is set to take place Wednesday.
Behind the scene discussions have been ongoing about the wastewater discharge permit, which is the last city permit required to proceed with One World Beef’s purchase of the closed beef processing plant.
At last week’s council meeting, Bill Smerdon, Brawley’s city attorney, was adamant in his recommendation that OWB must apply for a separate and specific wastewater discharge permit for that company, maintaining that that the National Beef permit had been rescinded and was not in compliance.
Dave Bachtel, a consulting engineer for the city, said negotiations with OWB had resulted in the receipt of the much-needed permit, with the stipulation that all the criteria had to be met to comply with the city’s requests. OWB must demonstrate that all pretreatment facilities are in place and operational before they will be allowed to discharge, he said.
“Since National Beef had not been discharging for the last year and a half, we issued a rescission of the existing discharge permit,” said Bachtel. “When the permit is transferred, it will be a permit for a facility that is non-operational and has no discharge. The transfer will become effective upon the change of ownership. In order to restart the facility, that becomes a change in operation. OWB will file a notice of change in operation with information that will be similar to a whole new permit application.”
“We continue to iron out some of the details,” said Brawley City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore. “It is understood by both parties that a modification is the direction we are headed. In order to achieve the modification, there is additional information that needs to be provided by the applicant.”
“We are not talking about months for this process, we are talking days. It’s looking pretty good,” Smerdon said.
Jose Angel, Interim Executive Officer of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board of the Colorado River Basin Region, explained the permit that was issued to OWB from his board.
“The permit our board adopted for OWB allows them to make the necessary upgrades to the facility with a time schedule, including a series of checks and balances to make sure the operation is going as we expect to be compliant with our permit,” said Angel.
“I certainly believe that it is in the discretion of the city to transfer the discharge permit,” Angel said.
“I would like to say that because of city staff, you have one of the best wastewater treatment plants in our region. Also, problems with National Beef were historic and predate the new wastewater treatment plant. National Beef made improvements to the facility before they closed their doors. In fact, National Beef was in compliance during their last year and a half of operation. I believe that OWB is trying to do the right thing and that city staff is much more experienced and is trying to protect the city and the environment.”
Brawley Mayor Donnie Wharton was optimistic about the effect reopening the plant would have on the city and county’s economic status. “We are excited as a city to move forward and bring these jobs and opportunities,” Wharton said. “We all know that this industry is the cornerstone and backbone of our economy in Imperial County. We are very excited to achieve this milestone.”
Eric Brandt, owner and president of One World Beef, said, “I want to thank the city and staff for working with us. This has been a yearlong process to try and acquire this facility and bring these jobs back to Brawley. It has taken a tremendous amount of effort to get this far. I’m from Brawley. We are part of the community and we are going to do the right thing. We want to keep these jobs here, not send them somewhere else. I appreciate the city’s efforts. We will work diligently with staff to provide the needed information.”