NHC, city table incentives vote for National Gypsum over air emission concerns

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The city of Wilmington put the brakes on a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday night to discuss giving National Gypsum $230,000 worth of incentives to revive the plant which closed in 2009.

City council said they will delay the hearing for 30 days, similar to what the New Hanover County commissioners decided during their public meeting on Monday. County commissioners suspended a vote on their own incentives package for National Gypsum after concerns that formaldehyde would be emitted into the air during plant operations.

City leaders say there are too many questions unanswered and that the Gen-X crisis does play a large role in any environmental issue moving forward.

"We know more questions to ask then we did a year ago," Wilmington City Councilman Paul Lawler said. "We need to ask those upfront, not after the fact. You can see that asking Chemours after the fact has been....difficult."

During Monday morning's meeting, county commissioners voiced concerns about the public health impact of formaldehyde which is used by National Gypsum to make drywall products and is emitted into the air.

According to a permit issued by the NC Division of Air Quality in 2016 for National Gypsum's shuttered Wilmington site, the company is permitted to emit up to 8.77 tons of formaldehyde annually.

The CDC says formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas that has a strong distinct smell and is used to make building and household products. Exposure to very high levels over many years has been linked to rare nose and throat cancers.

The commissioners will revisit the incentives vote in 30 days after they've had the time to study the possible environmental and health impacts.

The incentive package from the county would offer the company five annual payments of $70,000 provided it hires 51 people with an average salary of at least $57,000. National Gypsum also agrees to spend a minimum capital investment of $25 million to bring the Wilmington plant to modern standards.

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