Toxic Emissions from Proposed Cement Plant Merit Careful Review by State
The Southern Environmental Law Center and Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic today called for the North Carolina Division of Air Quality to conduct a careful and thorough evaluation of the proposed Titan America cement plant’s impact on communities near Wilmington, the environment and public health. Located in New Hanover County on the banks of the NE Cape Fear River, the new Titan Cement kiln and mine would be the fourth largest cement plant in the country and a major source of toxic emissions such as mercury and hydrochloric acid. “State law demands that the Division of Air Quality evaluate all of the impacts of Titan’s proposed cement plant and quarry,” said Geoff Gisler, staff attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. “DAQ must not shirk its responsibility to protect public health by rushing through a draft air permit based on an incomplete analysis.” In a letter sent to the DAQ today, the two organizations urged the withholding of any draft air permit until a thorough review could be conducted in keeping with legal requirements. DAQ's review should take advantage of information gathered in an upcoming evaluation of the environmental impacts by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stakeholder group. Working with the Corps, a team of state and federal agencies, local community groups, and environmental organizations will conduct an extensive environmental analysis of the project and its impacts on the surrounding area. “A project of this magnitude deserves careful and thorough study and public input, especially considering the potential impacts on human health and water resources,” said Michelle Nowlin, supervising attorney at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will publish new regulations governing some of the toxic air emissions from cement kilns in the spring. We should be careful about a rush to permit before the new EPA information is available.” The proposed site for the Titan cement plant is located on the Northeast Cape Fear River–a river that the state has already listed as impaired due to mercury contamination–near Wilmington. 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. Toxic mercury accumulates in people and wildlife that breathe contaminated air and eat contaminated fish. The Southern Environmental Law Center and Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic represent NC Coastal Federation and PenderWatch & Conservancy in this matter. The groups include concerned residents of the nearby Wilmington area and Cape Fear basin.
Founded in 1986, SELC is the only non-profit regional organization dedicated to protecting the native forests, wetlands, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and rural landscapes in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. SELC works in partnership with more than 100 diverse groups on legal advocacy, policy reform and public education to achieve lasting environmental protections.
The Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is a joint enterprise of Duke University's Law School and School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. The Clinic trains the next generation of environmental leaders while providing support to non-profit organizations and clients involved in environmental conflicts.