The company planning an insulation factory in West Virginia less than nine miles from the county border has said its impacts on Loudoun “will in all practical terms be non-existent.”
Rockwool Vice President Michael Zarin said his company’s engineers have determined the plant will emit less than one percent of the annual federal limit and less than two percent of the 24-hour federal limit.
“Given Loudon County’s distance from Ranson and the fact that these pollutants will dissipate over that distance, the impact on Loudon County will in all practical terms be non-existent,” Zarin said.
The planned Rockwool insulation plant in Ranson, WV, would crush and melt rock using coal and natural gas. The molten rock is then spun into “stone wool” fibers to create fire-resistant insulation.
According to the Denmark-based company planning the factory, it will be a 460,000-square-foot facility on 130 acres and employ about 150 people in positions ranging from management to the production line. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has permitted the plant to emit more than 138,000 tons per year into the air of pollutants like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, formaldehyde, and sulfur dioxide.
Builders broke ground in June, and construction on the plant is expected to begin in October with production scheduled to start in 2020.
And while plans for the plant have been in the works for years, West Virginians living near the plant only in the past few weeks begun sounding the alarm. In that time, western Loudouners have also begun looking into the plant and its impact on the county’s rural reaches.
Alta Jones, chairwoman of the county’s Rural Economic Development Commission, said she’s had many people come to her asking about the plant. She’s also the owner of Alta Terra Bed and Breakfast west of Hillsboro, near the West Virginia border. There, she and her husband also have vineyards managed by Hillsborough Vineyards next door and a forthcoming wine label.
“We go to Ranson and Charles Town—that’s where my husband goes every day to Home Depot,” Jones said. “… I want to make a high-quality wine, and my guests come here because it’s clean air.”
She said she’s had trouble finding hard information about the plant and its impacts on her business.
“We don’t even know if there’s a problem,” Jones said. “It sounds like there’s a problem. It sounds pretty bad, and that just shows how this has been spun and how last-minute.”
Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) has come out publicly in opposition to the plant, while western supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) will ask county staff members to look into the plant’s impacts on Loudoun when the board reconvenes in September. Buffington said he wants to find out whether the plant will have negative effects on people or agriculture.
West Virginians gone to county and city council meetings to ask elected representatives to delay or stop the plant, but have found it already has most of the permits it needs to start construction. They have worried about the plant’s 21-story-tall smokestacks, its location within 10,000 feet of four schools, and its 24/7 operations. A Facebook group, “Citizens Concerned about Rockwool-Ranson, WV,” has passed 7,600 members.