WEST COLUMBIA — West Columbia fire inspectors shut down a plastics recycling company Wednesday amid concerns about the safety of the operation.
But the city’s action drew a sharp response from a company representative, who said 50 people are out of work because of the stop-work order.
Mark Taylor, a property manager at Global Plastic Grinders LLC, said West Columbia’s stop work order is an unnecessary, knee-jerk response to last month’s fire that burned a Cayce recycling plant. Taylor said Global runs a safe operation.
“This is an impediment to business,” Taylor said, noting that the company might file a lawsuit. “This is no way to run a city.”
The June 29 Cayce fire sent plumes of black, acrid smoke high into the sky. Seen for miles, the fire took several days to contain and temporarily caused Cayce to limit water use as tainted runoff from the blaze wound toward the Congaree River. Several of the Cayce plant’s officials were cited over the company’s decision to illegally burn pallets near the building that caught fire. They are accused of being responsible for the fire.
Wyatt Coleman, West Columbia’s fire chief, said it’s unclear if there is any business relationship between the Cayce facility and Global Plastic Grinders in West Columbia. At one point, the Cayce facility was identified by authorities as Global Plastics Recycling. It was later identified as World Wide Recycling. Taylor said the Cayce facility was misidentified and there is no business relationship between the Cayce and West Columbia companies.
Either way, West Columbia officials said the city’s action had nothing to do with the Cayce fire – but there are enough questions about safety at Global Plastic Grinding to shutter the business until they learn more.
“There’s always a potential for an explosion,” Coleman said of the business that he said started operations late last year.
The stop-work order would be lifted if certain actions are taken by Global Plastic, city records indicate.
As its name indicates, the company grinds up plastic for re-use. Coleman said the concern centers on unpermitted equipment used in the grinding operation, as well as the amount of flammable material stored in the Parson Street building, the former Colite sign company site. Global Plastic is grinding a material that produces a dust that can be a threat when suspended in the air, he said.
“It would not take but a spark to set that dust off,” Coleman said.
The city fire code violations cited Global Plastic Grinders for failing to obtain an operational permit for combustible dust-producing operations and for not having an approved fire inspection report, according to Wednesday’s stop work order. A letter Wednesday from Coleman to Global Plastic Grinders said a July 5 inspection revealed that “your facilities pose potential hazards that need to be identified, quantified and assessed.”
Coleman’s letter tells Global Plastic to produce a report to assess the plant. Until that is completed, the company is banned from grinding plastic, the letter said. While the report is being done, the company must watch the building to control possible fire hazards and early signs of a fire.
Taylor said Global is working to get the grinding equipment licensed, but he said there was no need for an unannounced stop work order.