Fight continues against Rockwool in Jefferson County

RANSON, W.Va. — Concerned Residents against Rockwool organized a protest Tuesday at the Jefferson County Development Authority.

This comes just days after another group, known as Jefferson County Vision, filed a lawsuit against the authority for allowing the insulation plant to locate in Ranson. A Tuesday afternoon Jefferson County Development Authority meeting would have included the final reading of a water bond for Rockwool.

As opposition grew outside of their windows, the authority decided to table the motion. 35 people were on the list to speak with a few dozen more waiting outside. Those who oppose the facility cite a variety of concerns including air pollution.

“It’s like they’re spreading poison,” said resident Mary Reed. “What really ticks me off the most is that they’re building it across from North Jefferson Elementary School. Because I care about our children.”

The Granny Smith Lane site sits under a mile from the school. Rockwool announced plans for the facility in July 2017. Plans call for a $150 million plant, which will be used for manufacturing stone wool insulation. It will include two smoke stacks each about 213 feet tall, 460,000 square feet of space and could use between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons of water per day. The plant will employ roughly 150 people in positions ranging from production to management.

“With the turnout from the community, there’s obviously a broad set of concerns about what brought Rockwool here,” said Jefferson County Vision Board Member Chris Kinnan. “The legal structure of all these different interlocking deals and how those were formed. So it’s exciting today that there’s more time to analyze everything that’s going on. There’s more time for public input.”

Dr. Christine Wimer is an equine veterinarian specializing in immunology and applied molecular biology. She is concerned about Jefferson County’s equine industry and the negative impact pollutants from Rockwool could have on the horses.

“It’s something that we should preserve, it’s our history. One of the main things is they’re (Rockwool) going to emit particulate matter. Particulate matter is known to be very detrimental to horses, especially their performance. Even small amounts of inflammation that are subclinical can negatively affect the performance of horses.”

The site is approximately six miles from the racetrack at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and is surrounded by several horse farms.

“This is not something like people who are going to get cancer overtime,” said Christine Wimer. “This effect is hours to days from the time that stuff is in the air. So the horses will be affected immediately and the businesses will be affected slowly over time.”

Rockwool insists all proper testing and documentation has been completed to ensure minimal environmental impact to the region based on a sister facility in Mississippi. Rockwool said in a previous statement, in part:

“ROCKWOOL obtained its Clean Air permit from the West Virginia Department of
Environmental Protection (WV DEP) April 30, 2018 after meeting the requirements set
forth by the Federal Clean Air Act as adopted by WV DEP. This included the submission
of emissions data and the identification of the Best Achievable Control Technologies
(BACT) that will be used to keep emissions below federal and state limits.”

Construction on the site is expected to be complete in the early part of 2020.

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