Friday, September 7, 2018

Rockwool Responds to E-Mail Questions

When I attended the open house on August 25, 2018, Rockwool handed out cards with an e-mail address where they would answer questions. I saw a repost on the Blue Ridge Acres Nextdoor social media site of a critique that appeared on the CCARWV page of Facebook. I am not particularly conversant with molecular biology so I forwarded the comments to the Rockwool folks for their analysis. Here is that thread, with the Rockwool answer at the top and the original e-mail sent to Rockwool below:

"Chip,

We would not have selected a site in the vicinity of schools if we thought there would be any deleterious health effects on the children. Our Milton plant has operated for years with 7 schools within a 1-mi radius without any complaints of health effects.

Mr. Mansfield's reasoning below conflicts with the EPA determination that the MACT emissions limits provide "ample margin of safety to protect the public health." Sierra Club was party to this rulemaking in 2015, and accepted the new limits at that time.

Mr. Mansfield's calculations are missing one critically important factor: dispersion. We have modeled air dispersion, and calculated the concentrations in the air of the emitted substances. This is the standard used by bodies such as EPA and WV DEP to determine levels of acceptable risk for humans. 

ROCKWOOL has 45 manufacturing facilities around the world and has been in operation for 80 years, and no one has ever experienced the type of scenario Mr. Mansfield describes.

Best regards,

ROCKWOOL Ranson Team"

and the original e-mail sent to Ransonquestions@rockwool.com:

"Hello -- have you folks done a rebuttal to this kind of assertion (copied below)? I attended the Open House on August 25 and was generally impressed with the Rockwool people and answers provided. There has been a lot of concern generated by the VOC claims (sample listed below). I also wonder why Rockwool selected a site with a school on the perimeter of the property (apparently Rockwool has an internal policy against this)  -- did the county offer a plan for relocating the school?

Anyway, if you have a discussion of the issues listed below, that would be helpful.

Thanks,
Chip Gallo
Harpers, Ferry, WV

[begin quote from Facebook CCAR group]

Sorry if this is too technical for some. But, chemists have a tendency to understand chemicals. And some of us try to teach what we know.
The three VOC's coming out of the Rockwool stack are 
Methanol
Phenol
Formaldehyde
Chemists use a grouping variable called a MOLE which means "a huge previously decided upon number". Like eggs - we don't buy or sell eggs by the number of eggs. We buy and sell eggs by the "DOZEN".
Chemists use MOLE as farmers and stores use DOZEN. It's a predefined number of 12 eggs. MOLE is "a huge previously decided upon number".
Same Same MOLE is like DOZEN.
By WEIGHT, Rockwool is allowed about 
Methanol 1/3 + (a little more than 1/3)
Phenol 1/3
Formaldehyde a little less than 1/3
They come out of the stack in relatively equal % by weight. But, each molecule's weight is very different.
Yes, molecules do have a weight. It's a tiny amount, but a tiny amount multiplied by a "huge previously decided upon number", a MOLE is not so tiny. 
Methanol is light
Phenol is heavier (3x heavier actually) 
Formaldehyde is light (about the same as Methanol)
So, since Methanol is light and formaldehyde is light and Phenol is heavy, chemists find it useful to actually count the NUMBER OF MOLECULES of each.
It's not the weight that kills you, it's the molecule. So, presenting the allowable pollution by tons is misleading.
So, remember that the weight breakdown was roughly 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 ? Well, the breakdown is different when you count the actual number of molecules. We call that the MOLAR % composition (relative numbers of molecules not their weight).
The MOLAR % Composition looks like this. 
Methanol 50%
Phenol 16%
Formaldehyde 34%
That means, "When we count all of the molecules coming out of the stack based upon what the WVDEP allowed,
50% of the number of molecules are Methanol
16% of the number of molecules are Phenol
34% of the number of molecules are Formaldehyde.
So, here's what we can say:
-All three of these molecules have weight. As they come out of the stack, and are picked up by the wind, the heavier ones will fall out first because gravity still works on chemicals.
-PHENOL will be deposited closer to the stack than Methanol or formaldehyde because Phenol is the heaviest (three times heavier).
-Next will be Methanol and Formaldehyde, but there will be almost twice as many Methanol molecules as Formaldehyde molecules (50% : 34%). That's almost 2:1 because the Phenol has already dropped out (heavy drops first).
We know that 0.026202 lbs of Methanol will kill one person.
Rockwool is allowed 208,000 lbs/year.
That's enough to kill 7,938,325 people each year.
But, Rockwool says the limits are not what they will be polluting. Rockwool says they will be at about 40% of that.
Ok, so we can say that Rockwool says they'll be putting enough Methanol in the air in Jefferson county every year to kill 3,175,330 people.
But, Rockwool also says, it will break down quickly in the sunlight and the soil. They say that about Phenol and formaldehyde, too.
If the Methanol breaks down to a mere 1.7% of its original concentration, there is still enough to kill every one of the residents of Jefferson County.
But, that's not fair, either. It's true, but not fair. That's because the Methanol will not build up, it will break down. So, in this case, TIME MATTERS.
On any one day, Rockwool plans to pollute 40% of 1/365th (365 days/year) of the allowed amount of Methanol.
That means that realistically, the plant will only emit enough Methanol to kill 15% of our population ... every day.
And some will say that's alarmist and maybe it is.
But, if that stuff doesn't break down more than 99.989%
there will be enough left over to kill one person per day.
But, that's not fair, either. Because it won't all be in one place - it will be distributed down wind.
So, I hope you learned
1) It's not about the pounds. It's about the number of molecules. Because it's the molecules that are toxic, not the WEIGHT of the molecules.
2) A lot of things have to go in our favor EVERY DAY in order for animals and plants to not die from this. EVERY DAY.
3) The chances are good that there is a low PROBABILITY of death from Methanol coming out of the stack.
But, here's the thing ... it was ZERO before Rockwool came."
-Jay L. Mansfield
CCAR"
Photo by Chip Gallo

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