Developers building a controversial manufacturing plant were cited by state regulators for violating environmental rules during construction.
Rockwool, a Danish company building the coal and gas-fired manufacturing plant in Jefferson County, received the Notice of Violation from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection following an inspection on Sept. 11.
The violation notice was the result of an inspection at the construction site, when a state inspector noted a sinkhole. In the violation notice, the inspector wrote that Rockwool had violated terms of its water pollution control permit by failing to implement controls or report “noncompliance, which may have endangered health or the environment” to the DEP’s spill line, among other things.
Rockwool received the Notice of Violation on Oct. 5, said Michael Zarin, vice president for group communications at Rockwool.
Each of those deficiencies was fixed, he said. The company didn’t stop construction, he said, because it wasn’t required to.
Construction started in November 2017 and should be completed by the end of December 2019, said Leslie McLaren, spokeswoman for the project. When it’s built, the 460,000-square-foot manufacturing plant will melt rock to create wool building insulation, potentially emitting hazardous materials like particulate matter and formaldehyde in the process.
The Notice of Violation is a confirmation for many residents who’ve voiced concern about the project.
“It is alarming that Rockwool doesn’t even have a building permit and is already violating rules designed to protect our health and the environment,” Megan Hartlove, a member of Jefferson County Vision, a nonprofit group, said in a statement. The nonprofit stemmed from a Facebook page where residents started sharing concerns about the project.
In the interest of being “as transparent as possible with our new neighbors,” Rockwool wrote about the Notice of Violation on its Facebook page.
“We have taken action to correct all deficiencies the DEP noted. When they receive our formal response, we anticipate they will confirm we have done so satisfactorily,” Zarin said in an email.
The plant will be built on a 130-acre swath of land annexed by the town of Ranson that was formerly home to Jefferson Orchards. The property is off W.Va. 9, across the road from North Jefferson Elementary School.
Developers say they’ll employ 150 people for production and management jobs, but residents insist that their county, which maintains one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, doesn’t need them.
As residents learn more about the project, concern has snowballed, and residents have filled rooms at municipal meetings to urge elected officials to act.
The controversy has garnered the attention of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who’s written to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Rockwool with questions about the project. Meanwhile, the DEP and Gov. Jim Justice have doubled down on their support for the project.
“Based on all information that we have gathered and that we have reviewed, we see no threat to the health of our citizens and no threat to our environment,” DEP Secretary Austin Caperton said in a news release on Sept. 18.