County commissioners to business owner: waste pile has ‘got to go’

A picture of the waste pile outside the SIPS Team USA facility at the Decatur County Industrial Air Park. Picture Provided by Doug Young
A picture of the waste pile outside the SIPS Team USA  facility at the Decatur County Industrial Air Park. Picture Provided by Doug Young
A picture of the waste pile outside the SIPS Team USA facility at the Decatur County Industrial Air Park. Picture Provided by Doug Young

Decatur County Commissioners said they won’t wait long for the president of a local business to clean up a mess on property he rents at the Decatur County Industrial Air Park.

The business in question is SIPS Team USA, which makes Structural Insulated Panels for use in residential and commercial buildings. SIPS claims its panels are energy efficient, cost-effective and more structurally sound than traditional home framing.

As part of its manufacturing of 8-feet by 24 feet panels, SIPS combines EPS foam (Expanded polystyrene) and laminated wood and depending on what the order calls for, some of the foam and wood have to be trimmed from the final product. For example, some of the panels have pre-made cutouts for windows and doors, while others come as-is for use in walls.

The problem is, SIPS has been storing its byproducts outside the old hangar it manufactures panels in, just feet away from the airport, said Doug Young, a local pilot who is also on Decatur County’s Airport Advisory Committee.

Young said some of the foam pieces, some larger than others, have been carried by wind onto the side of the airport taxiways and even into private hangars. There are large boards that have to be disposed of because they have laminate chemical on them and can’t be sold or recycled.

In addition to showing commissioners pictures of the waste pile, as viewed from the taxiway and other vantage points, Young showed commissioners a copy of a letter sent by pilot Karl Young to commissioners about the same issue two years ago. Young also showed a redacted copy of a registered letter another Industrial Park business sent to Ron Harrigan, president of SIPS Team USA, asking him to deal with the waste pile.

“Yes, we have a problem,” Harrigan said. “I’m not happy with it either.”

Harrigan said the company is working on possible solutions. To make the foam byproduct commercially viable as a recyclable process, it needs to be compressed further, but the compressor costs about $30,000.  SIPS has also purchased a 10-cubic yard trailer that can be attached to a pickup truck.

The wood can be taken to the Decatur County Landfill, and County Administrator Gary Breedlove said SIPS may be able to deposit the wood more cheaply in a new Construction and Demolition section of the landfill that is currently in the permitting phase.

However, the bags of foam might not be suitable for the landfill because foam takes up a lot of space and has no weight to help with the breakdown of waste, Breedlove said. Additionally, the bags can break and the many small pieces of foam could be blown away from the landfill, he said. Harrigan said bringing the bags of foam inside temporarily would cause problems with the company’s manufacturing process.

“I apologize for the mess,” Harrigan said. “It was unintentional. We’re working on it. About  a year ago, a contractor took about 10-12 trailer loads to the dump.  We hope the compressor, if we can get one, and the trailer will help.”

County Commissioner Russell Smith  suggested that Decatur County Public Works could haul away the existing pile of waste and charge SIPS for the removal. However, by Young’s calculation, the pile would take several hundred truck loads to remove. According to Harrigan, SIPS Team USA generates about 7-8 55-gallon plastic bags’ worth of foam and floor sweepings each week of operation. The company has been in business since 2007.

Harrigan said he hoped to be able to make significant progress on making the waste pile smaller in the next 45 days. However, county commissioners–reminded by Young that the problem has existed for several years without any action taken–may not wait that long.

“We all want to see the same action and we want to see it soon,” Commissioner Smith.

Commissioner Oliver Sellers was less optimistic and implied that the county government, the landlord for SIPS, could expose itself to massive liability if the SIPS byproduct caused damage to aircraft.

“I am suggesting the county attorney serve [SIPS] with an eviction notice,” Sellers said. “This is clearly not an industry that needs to be at an airport. If a piece got pulled into a jet, we would never recover from that.”

Commissioner Smith said he agreed with Sellers that if a suitable industrial building could be found, it would be ideal to move SIPS away from the airport. However, Rick McCaskill, executive director of the county’s Industrial Development Authority, said finding a suitable location would be tough.

Harrigan agreed to a request from Commissioner Jan Godwin to return to commissioners’ next meeting, set for August 26, to report on any progress that has been made on the waste pile.

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