NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Carolinas-Titan Cement Co. received an air quality permit Wednesday for a proposed cement manufacturing plant in the northern portion of New Hanover County.
According to general manager Bob Odom, it has been four years and three days since the cement company applied for the permit.
The permit, issued by the N.C. Division of Air Quality, includes strict limits for mercury and other air pollutants. Emission limits were set based on all applicable state and federal air quality standards, but are more stringent that those in effect when the facility was first proposed in 2008, according to a news release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
"This permit ensures that the Titan plant will require state-of-the art air pollution controls to protect public health and the environment," DAQ Director Sheila Holman stated in a news release. "Air emissions would be much lower than expected when the facility was first proposed."
The permit requires the facility to meet EPA regulations for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, greenhouse gases, mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. Compared to the first draft air permit in 2009, the new permit would "reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 18 percent, reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 70 percent, reduce particle pollution by 62 percent and reduce mercury emissions by 82 percent."
Odom assures the plant will comply with all state and federal environmental rules. He says the facility will be one of the cleanest cement plants in the world.
The plant will have to use state-of-the-art pollution controlled devices. The permit conditions require the facility operators to:
- Monitor and inspect air pollution control equipment on a set schedule
- Conduct periodic stack testing of emissions from the kiln system
- Operate continuous emission monitors for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, total hydrocarbons and visible emissions
- Comply with state limits on air toxins.
However, not everyone is convinced that the permit is a good idea.
"As a physician, it does not appear that the NC DAQ took into account any recent literature about medical studies," said Dr. Robert Parr, a New Hanover County specialist in emergency medicine. "...It will soon become apparent that the amount of pollutants that are coming out of this plant are not in the best interest of residents in New Hanover County."
Some groups opposed to Carolinas Cement, like Stop Titan, are also vowing to continue the fight.
Mike Giles, with the North Carolina Coastal Federation, says they expected the state to issue an air quality permit, but the decision is still upsetting.
"We are disappointed and we are surprised," he said. "The state moved forward issuing this permit without a comprehensive review. We think this is premature."
Giles wouldn't specify whether or not the group plans to take legal action to halt the process, but he says they are reviewing the permit, which is an 80-page document.
The project must still receive permits from other state and federal agencies. The issuance does not commit the state to issue any of the remaining permits.
Dr. Parr believes that changes need to be made to guarantee people won't be harmed from the plant in the future.
"To move on from here to ensure there will be no problems, they could move to natural gas like Sutton Plant," he said. "Number two, they could decrease amount of emissions by decreasing the size of the plant. Number three, if the NC DAQ and Titan say there will be no health-related problems, then they need to show their own health-risk assessment."
Now the project will go under review with the Army Corps of Engineers. That review process will take two years.
The air permit may be viewed online at http://www.ncair.org/permits/TV_permits/.