"Let's incentivize film, not formaldehyde": Rep. Butler takes stand against National Gypsum

Representative Deb Butler said Wilmington needs to take a close look at how National Gypsum's formaldehyde emissions would affect the area. (Source: WECT)
Representative Deb Butler said Wilmington needs to take a close look at how National Gypsum's formaldehyde emissions would affect the area. (Source: WECT)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - In front of a crowd in downtown Wilmington, state representative Deb Butler explained why she doesn't want National Gypsum back in Wilmington.

"Let's incentivize film, not formaldehyde," Butler said, as she laid out her concerns with the harmful gas emitted at the site.

New Hanover County and the city of Wilmington tabled a public hearing to discuss giving National Gypsum incentives to revive the plant which closed in 2009.

"Why in the world would we spend over a half a million dollars to incentivize a smokestack industry that's already here to begin with.

Butler told the crowd there are too many leaders who don't know about formaldehyde to feel safe allowing the emissions in Wilmington. "That's a scary proposition," Butler said, when asked. "We need to put the brakes on."

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.

"Our economic development team needs to do a better job focusing on 21st-century jobs not smokestacks," Butler said. The district 18 representative said the Cape Fear is a destination spot -- people want to move here and raise families.

"They want to raise their families here provided we don't contaminate it further," Butler added. "There are better choices, better recruitment techniques out there."

A National Gypsum spokesperson said, regardless of county and city's decision, the company has "another good location" to expand its production in the southeast. The spokesperson went on to say the company will make its decision after the April council and city meetings.

According to Jessica Loeper, spokesperson for New Hanover County, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has agreed to send an expert down to talk to leaders about the health effects of formaldehyde emissions. Loeper said county commissioners are expected to discuss the presentation at one of the April meetings

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