Monday, August 27, 2018

Dissecting the Campaign Against Rockwool in WV

So I had my "Toxic Rockwool" t-shirt and was researching the alarming claims against the manufacturing facility planned for the Jefferson Orchards location near North Jefferson Elementary School on old Rt. 9. I had seen the wind dispersion charts predicting dispersion of deadly byproducts and read about the 500,000 gallons per day of water needed for manufacturing. How could the governor of West Virginia, the mayor of Ranson, the County Commission do this terrible thing to the children?

Turns out that Jefferson Orchards owners had some remediation to do on their property before it was suitable for industrial manufacturing. See this West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection web site notice:,-Inc.-Submits-Voluntary-Remediation-Program-Application.aspx. Wondering if the new use of the property will be any better ... and why I hadn't seen any "Toxic Jefferson Orchards" t-shirts. (Note: the remediation plan has now been included in the Rockwool Voluntary Remediation Program site.)

Based on the planning, oversight, reporting and technology applied to the Rockwool plant, it would appear to be a safer and more controlled use of the land. See the WVDEP Rockwool web page, in particular the DEP response to a July 2, 2018 Sierra Club letter on air quality.

This assertion of safer use is informed by Rockwool's water management as well. Plant design uses Jefferson Utility water (up to 125,000 gallons per day), captured rain water, holding ponds, solid materials recycling with less than typical manufacturing consumption of water. Water released back to the Charles Town Wastewater Treatment Plant will be pre-treated and at a rate of less than 20,000 gallons per day. This use will be supported by the Ranson Pipeline extension (see page 34 of the Charles Town Utility Board 2018 Wastewater Strategic Plan).

A major sticking point for this project is its proximity to schools in the area. If one has faith in the WV Department of Environmental Protection and federal EPA, permitted users will not endanger humans. Rockwool has followed the rules so far and even added environmental monitoring and plant remediations that are not required by law. In a perfect world there would be no schools, nursing homes or daycare centers near industrial users (and this appears to be corporate policy for Rockwool as well). Unfortunately, this is presently not the case and many of the protestors I encountered at the August 25 open house were accompanied by their children. I have to wonder if the circa 1971 North Jefferson Elementary school in particular is slated for modernization at a new location further from the plant. Otherwise Rockwool is in violation of their own policy, which if followed would have minimized the objection.

Not Many Kids At the Open House

Another tact which apparently is already being followed by the protest movement is to take the issue up with WV DEP and work to have the permitting requirements and monitoring strengthened. This kind of negotiated solution would benefit everyone living, studying or working near industrial zones in West Virginia.

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