CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — A week after Rockwool announced they would independently seek a consultancy to conduct a human health risk assessment (HHRA) for their controversial plant under construction in Ranson, Jefferson County Schools’ superintendent released a letter on behalf of the Board of Education opposing the action.
In the letter dated February 7 to Group Communications at Rockwool President Michael Zarin, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson said the Board of Education has expressed disappointment to the announcement.
In August 2018, the Jefferson County Board of Education encouraged Rockwool to complete the HHRA focused on school-age kids. This is due to the site’s close location to three schools. The HHRA is not a legal or regulatory requirement.
The Board of Education began taking applications for consultancies in October. Only one applied in time for the extended November deadline. As a result, Rockwool announced in late January they would begin to search for a consultancy independently.
“This board is not a reactive board,” Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson said on MetroNews affiliate WEPM’s ‘Panhandle Live’ Friday. “When you elect someone to care for your children and to make very big decisions about their health, safety and welfare you want someone who is very calm and very deliberate and who takes in all of the facts before they jump to conclusions or swing hard one way or the other.”
“That may be a source of frustration to some people, but quite frankly I think it’s great for Jefferson County Schools. I think that it keeps us on the right path. It keeps their focus in the right place which is on children, quite frankly.”
Gibson said while the debate surrounding Rockwool has been heated, the board is still willing to work cooperatively with the company’s officials. She complimented Zarin as being “very open and communicative”.
Within hours of the release of Gibson’s letter, Rockwool submitted a statement to WEPM.
“Because the health risk assessment must be conducted in a timely manner if we are to have a chance to act on its findings, we remain concerned that five months of searching for an experienced, qualified candidate to conduct the study yielded only one firm – which later withdrew owing to public criticism. We are open to solutions that we can develop with the Board of Education and will continue our dialogue with them with the goal of finding a qualified candidate with extensive experience assessing risks of industrial operations. When it comes to children’s health, no one wants to compromise on experience and qualifications.”
– Michael Zarin, Vice President, Group Communications for Rockwool
“It’s not who makes the most noise,” added Gibson. “It’s who is going through a calm, deliberative, thoughtful process to produce some facts about what’s best for children.”