N.C. Violated its Duty by Permitting More, Avoidable Pollution from Titan’s Proposed Cement Plant
The state failed to uphold its legal responsibility to protect people from avoidable harm by authorizing increased pollution from the proposed Titan America cement plant in New Hanover County, according to documents filed today by the Southern Environmental Law Center in state court. The law center filed a legal challenge to the N.C. Division of Air Quality’s air permit for the plant on behalf of the N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Fear River Watch, PenderWatch & Conservancy, and Sierra Club in the Office of Administrative Hearings.
“By allowing Titan to pollute the air with even higher levels of dust and soot than allowed previously, the state’s permit for Titan’s pollution fails residents and visitors of North Carolina and violates state and federal law,” said Geoff Gisler, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the conservation groups. “This permit risks families’ health by allowing more, unnecessary pollution.”
The revised state air permit allows Titan to emit even greater levels of particulate matter, weakening the previous permit’s pollution control requirements. If required, those controls could significantly reduce Titan’s harmful pollution levels.
“The Division of Air Quality is charged with protection of our air quality and human health,” said Mike Giles, Coastal Advocate for the N.C. Coastal Federation. “This permit gives Titan the permission to further harm people’s health in our community while also hurting our coastal economy.”
According to a recent analysis, Titan’s air pollution would result in hundreds of cases of acute respiratory symptoms, one premature death each year, and associated health costs of millions of dollars for the adjacent three county area. Particulate matter pollution has been linked to respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and emphysema, as well as cardiac illnesses, such as chest pain and heart attacks.
“This permit allows Titan to pollute our air with even more soot, putting residents of Pender County unnecessarily at risk,” said Allie Sheffield, president of PenderWatch & Conservancy.
Located on the Northeast Cape Fear River in Castle Hayne, the cement kiln would be a significant source of toxic emissions, such as mercury and hydrochloric acid, as well as sulfur dioxide and other pollutants that contribute to ozone pollution. Toxic mercury accumulates in people and wildlife that eat contaminated fish from nearby waters. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight percent of American women of childbearing age have mercury in their bodies at levels high enough to put their babies at risk of birth defects, loss of IQ, learning disabilities and developmental problems.
“The Northeast Cape Fear River is extremely valuable natural resource,” said Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear RIVERKEEPER®, Cape Fear River Watch. “By approving this permit, the state failed to protect the river and the people who depend on it for their livelihood and enjoyment.”
Sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and ozone are known to aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions and can be particularly harmful to sensitive populations, including children and the elderly.
“North Carolinians rely on DAQ to protect their health from adverse impacts of harmful air pollution,” said Cassie Gavin, director of Government Relations for the NC Sierra Club. “Additional pollution from the proposed Titan cement plant is avoidable and must be required by the state.”
The mine for the limestone to make the cement is expected destroy about 1,000 acres of wetlands.