Thursday, October 15, 2020

Acid Cloud Victims Sue Brandon Company

 Gold Coast Commodities just can't seem to stay out of the courtroom.  A trio of plaintiffs sued the Brandon company in Rankin County Circuit Court on September 23. A strong cloud of Hydrogen Sulfide gas knocked out  Jason Bradshaw, Austin Williamson, and Josh Fitzhugh at the company's wastewater disdposal lagoon off of Lake Road near Pelahatchie in July.  The gas hospitalized several people and caused neighbors to complain of headaches.   The operation of newly-connected aerators created the gas.  The plaintiffs work for the company that installed the aerators.

Gold Coast processes used cooking oil and soapstock into animal feed and other products such as biodesel.  Sulfuric acid is added.  The resulting reaction produces waste that is later mixed with a caustic agent (usually NaOH).  The waste must be kept at high temperatures or else it can't  flow. The wastewater has one other dangerous feature: it is highly acidic with a pH that can be lower than 2.  Thus it is very important the wastewater is disposed properly.

This saga began several years ago in Brandon when the city caught the Brandon company dumping highly acidic wastewater into its sewer system in 2014. Brandon sued the company.  Foiled in Brandon,  Gold Coast shipped the wastewater to Rebel High Velocity Sewer Services in Jackson.  Rebel in turn dumped six million gallons of the Gold Coast acid directly into the Jackson sewer system.  MDEQ issued a cease and desist order against Rebel for the discharges in October 2017.  The Justice Department is prosecuting Rebel for EPA violations. 

 The company also discharged wastewater into the Pelahatchie wastewater treatment facility under an agreement with the town.  Running out of local options, the company built a lagoon in Rankin County for the disposal of its wastewater in 2019.  Gold Coast began using the lagoon but there was one problem.  The company operated the wastewater disposal site without using aerators for eight months.  

The company finally cranked up the aerators in July. The lagoon produced a strong cloud of hydrogen sulfide gas.  A September MDEQ Cease & Desist order states what happened next:

Emergency personnel responded to the scene when persons present during the initiation of aerator operation became ill. An investigation revealed that those individuals were exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas coming from the lagoon. Upon information and belief , at least one person was transported to the hospital. At the request of MDEQ, Respondent began monitoring the site and surrounding area for hydrogen sulfide gas. On or about July 21, 2020, the air monitors detected hydrogen sulfide gas at concentrations as high as 58 ppm near the lagoon, which exceeds the 10 minute-Emergency Exposure Guidance Level of 50 ppm.

 The lawsuit provides more information: 

3.7       On or about July 1, 2020, Plaintiffs  began their work installing an electrical panel and  controls to run the four floating aerators in the la goon, as referenced  above.   Plaintiffs  were not aware of what was in the lagoon, but from the outset of the project, they noticed that the  lagoon had a distinctly foul odor.

3.8       As  the   project   proceeded,   GCC's   President/CEO,   Defendant   Tom   Douglas,  periodically  frequented  the lagoon to check the status of Plaintiffs'  work.   On one such  occasion soon  after  Plaintiffs  began  their  work,  because  of  concern  regarding  the  foul   odor,  Plaintiff Bradshaw  inquired  of Defendant Tom Douglas regarding  what  was in the lagoon  and whether it contained  any  potential  to harm  Plaintiffs.   Defendant  Tom  Douglas  responded  that  the lagoon contained  " nothing  special, just soybean oil along with some other  natural  oils, nothing  harmful that would  hurt you."   Plaintiffs took  Defendant Tom Douglas at his word  that they  were  not at risk of exposure to harmful gases and/or chemical vapors and proceeded   with the project.

3.9       As  the  project   approached   approximately   the  mid-point   of  Plaintiffs'   work, Defendant  Tom  Douglas  began  to  make  clear  his  desire  that  the  project  move  forward  on  an expedited  basis,  remarking  that " the FBI  and  the  EPA  was  all  over  him,  threatening  him  with prison" if the job was not completed soon.

3.10   .... At  approximately  8:30  a.m.  on  July  20,   2020,  the  power company  came  to  the  premises  to  initiate  the  process  of turning  on  the aerator.   In addition  to Plaintiffs, several  individuals employed  by GCC were present to  witness the initial testing of the aerator.

3.11     Within approximately  5 minutes of turning on the aerator, an individual employed by  GCC   who  was  approximately  80  years  of  age  began  to  run  away  from  the  lagoon.    The  individual quickly collapsed  to the ground  and  was assisted  to a vehicle for emergency   transport to the nearest hospital.  The individuals from GCC who were present hurriedly moved  farther away from  the lagoon  to a distance  of approximately  150-200  yards  without  providing  Plaintiffs   any warning  regarding what was occurring.   Plaintiffs did not appreciate  what  was occurring nor  the grave risk they faced because they  had been assured  by Defendant  Tom Douglas that the lagoon  did not pose any danger to them.

3.12     Next, Plaintiffs  began to feel lightheaded  and  noticed  that their eyes had  begun to  burn.   As they  attempted  to quickly  gather some of their tools  before  departing,  all  three  of the Plaintiffs passed out on the ground from the noxious gasses being emitted from the lagoon.   None of the individuals from GCC took any effort to assist Plaintiffs, whose lives were in peril  due to exposure to the deadly gasses.

3.13     Thereafter,  Plaintiff Bradshaw  regained  consciousness  and  somehow  managed  to have  the wherewithal to stumble toward the aerator and turn it off.  Plaintiff Bradshaw noticed that  Plaintiff  Williamson  and  Plaintiff  Fitzhugh  were  laying  within  approximately  10 feet from   one another  and  barely  breathing,  so  he  rolled  each  of  them  on  their  backs  and  began   to  rub  their sternums, first Plaintiff Williamson and then Plaintiff Fitzhugh, in an effort to  get them to breathe properly.

3.14     After  approximately  5-10  minutes  had  elapsed ,  an  individual  from  GCC  finally came to assist Plaintiffs.   Plaintiff Bradshaw and this individual  loaded Plaintiff Williamson   into Plaintiffs'  truck.  They also loaded Plaintiff Fitzhugh into the back of the truck, after  which they drove approximately  ¼ of a mile away so that they could breathe clean oxygen.

3.15     Thereafter, Plaintiffs were taken by ambulance to Merit Health Rankin in Brandon ,  Mississippi.   While at the  hospital ,  Plaintiffs  underwent  numerous  tests and  were  told   that they were suffering from exposure to an extremely  lethal gas.

3.16     The  following  day,  Plaintiffs  learned  that  the  gas  they  had  been  exposed  to  was hydrogen sulfide.

3.17     Plaintiffs were later informed  that GCC turned  the aerator  back on even after the incident, after which neighbors from miles away made complaints of headaches and nausea.

MDEQ shut down the lagoon recently and ordered Gold Coast to safely remove all wastewater from the lagoon. 

The lawsuit charges the defendants with negligence, premises liability,  gross negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.   The plaintiffs seek punitive damages as well as the usual list of damages and attorney's fees. The case is assigned to Circuit Judge John Emfinger.  Attorney Michael Heilman represents the plaintiffs.



Kingfish note: If, and that is if, the allegations are true, it is pure luck that no one died that day.   Here is a list of actions. 

* Brandon sues Gold Coast.  Lawsuit is active. 

* MDEQ issues C&D order against Rebel for dumping millions of gallons of Gold Coast wastewater into Jackson sewer system. 

* Justice Department files Bill of Information against Rebel owner. 

* EPA investigates Gold Coast after MDEQ makes criminal referral.  Investigation is active. 

* MDEQ issues C&D order in September against lagoon and orders it shut down. 



Anonymous said...

There used to be a guy on Supertalk, now deceased, who with regularity would say..."Don't Trust Nobody". That seems fitting in this Gold Coast saga.

Anonymous said...

I miss Dave. He was the only reason to listen

Anonymous said...

Chemistry lesson, Kingfish. If they'd used enough caustic, like they should have, the wastewater pH would not have been 2.

Anonymous said...

He copied Ronald Reagan who said "Trust, but verify".

Anonymous said...

I think he said "Never trust nobody". That would certainly apply to Paul Gallow and JT.

Anonymous said...

Will they now receive worker's compensation benefits?

Smells Like Offal said...

I think you meant Gallo. Speaking of 'caustic', Dave was surely that. Dave didn't advocate verification. He simply said never trust. I knew Ronnie Reagan and he weren't no Reagan.

Back to the subject...Andy gonna be mighty busy. I don't think he knew he was biting off this much. Can he chew it? He might have to hire some of Fitch's girls to part time legal aid work, lookin' up stuff and all.

Anonymous said...

Man, this is like a sinking ship in a hurricane.

Funny my captchia was pictures of boats.

Anonymous said...

" Funny my captchia was pictures of boats."

That's hilarious.

My "captcha" was something about yellow school buses.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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