Asphalt plants are a necessary evil if we are to have paved roads. The issue is how does an asphalt plant manage air and water pollution so the toxic pollutants stay within the confines of the property lines of the polluting industry? A land owner should be able to do what they please on their property, they just can’t affect their neighbors with air, water and noise pollution. If the asphalt plant owner wants to pollute themselves and their workers, it’s not for us to stop them.

Self monitoring industry

The Division of Air Quality’s emissions testing frequency policy has baseline testing frequency of 12 months. In essence, by state guidelines, our out-of-compliance neighbor will be self-monitoring our air and water quality.

God bless the terminally ill children who visit Camp New Hope with their families for a reprieve from the demands of terminal illnesses. God bless the frail elderly who have protected this beautiful county for generations. Their lungs will be weakened by nasty air borne chemicals like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds.

Water and air pollution

A small branch runs through the proposed asphalt site, the branch proceeds to the New River 1,500 feet downstream. Each of the out-of-compliance reports from the Mine Inspection Reports dating 3-22-07 to 9-25-12 informs the operator to install buffer zones and sediment traps to prevent erosion runoff from entering the branch and flowing to the New River. Imagine adding major toxic chemicals to the runoff and letting them flow through our pristine community.

The working assumption has always been that Appalachian Materials will not follow the rules and regulations created to manage environmental impact. They have been out of compliance during every Mining Inspection between 2007 and 2017. During the inspection in 2012, (someone allegedly) pulled a gun out of his pocket to intimidate the inspector. It worked, the inspectors didn’t return to the out of compliance site for another three years.

The proposed site of the asphalt plant has particular vulnerabilities because it is in the New River Valley. Fog and smoke lay just above the river for hours some 270 plus days a year. When the fog contains toxic asphalt emissions, it creates respiratory distress for young children and elders with weakened lung conditions.

An ounce of prevention

An ounce of prevention is a painful but necessary investment by all Ashe County taxpayers to prevent a rogue industry from polluting the New River Valley, hurting land values and turning away tourism revenue. The cost of this lawsuit, although outrageously expensive, will be far outpaced by the loss of future revenue from land value and tourism income. Who wants to live or play within the sight and smell of an asphalt plant?

The Ashe County Board of Commissioners understand that the community is being subjected to a rogue industry that ignores all the health and safety rules and they are standing up for all the citizens of Ashe County by continuing to fight the polluting adversary in court.

We as a community need to have the courage to back the commissioners in the very expensive and unpleasant battle.

We need to keep this dirty genie in the bottle until they find an appropriate site to cook their 350 million tons of asphalt annually. Appalachian Materials is not a good corporate citizen. It is a greedy polluting industry. The only reason this New River site makes any sense is so they can save a haul fee for moving gravel. Saving a haul fee and polluting the New River Valley is not a good deal for Ashe County citizens.

Patrick J. Considine

West Jefferson

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