Environmental concerns surrounding the Rockwool Group’s operations in West Virginia has prompted area representatives to seek answers about its impact on Loudoun County.
County officials' inquiry comes after an outcry by county residents and environmentalists in August, during the Board of Supervisors' break.
“I’m very, very concerned," said Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large). "I do recognize that the EPA standards say one thing, but you know what, there’s a lot of times the EPA standards are just not enough.”
On Tuesday, the board directed county staff to prepare information for an upcoming business meeting to consider addressing the controversial stone wool manufacturing plant in West Virginia.
Residents in and around the Ranson, West Virginia, facility are concerned about the potential environmental impact of the Rockwool Group’s operations. The factory sits across from North Jefferson Elementary School and less than two miles from T.A. Lowery Elementary, Wildwood Middle and Jefferson High schools.
Jefferson County, West Virginia, officials and the West Virginia Development Authority spent 18 months working with the Denmark-based stone wool production company to help land the economic development project, according to Ranson Mayor Keith Pierson. The mayor said the project, which was referred to as Project Shuttle, was kept confidential until it was approved.
But after breaking ground earlier this summer, residents across the region have increasingly expressed concerns about air pollution and chemicals that could spill out from the 24-hour plant.
The group 350 Loudoun, which is part of an online international group dedicated to preserving the environment, states that Rockwell will be a major source of air pollution.
Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said Tuesday he feels confident staff will be ready to report back on Oct. 2 with the requested information.
“I don’t personally think West Virginia will give a hoot what the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors says on this,” Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg District) said. “But I do hope we will take a position in opposition to it.”
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.-10th) has also joined the list of people concerned about the plant. Comstock wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency last week, asking the agency to further examine “any and all applications in this matter to determine any areas of non-compliance and how we can ensure protection of our existing economy and communities.”
“The impact to Loudoun County could cause irreparable harm to the local economy, especially the agritourism industry. Those involved with our wine industry and our vineyards have informed me that even slight changes could significantly alter the quality of their wines, which they have spent years perfecting,” Comstock wrote.
The second-term representative also expressed concerns about residents who live in the path of “these toxins that would be spewed,” and the potential for heart and lung damage and damage to intellectual development in children.
The factory is expected operate 24 hours a day. Trent Ogilvie, president of Rockwool’s insulation business in North America, said the plant will not negatively impact residents, and the company’s plant in Mississippi has caused no harm, according to WTOP.
However, Loudoun residents have rallied against the plant. More than 7,800 people have joined a Facebook group called Concerned Citizens Against Rockwool-Ranson,WV.