Student and adult Highlander fans shuffled through the hallway past Glenvar Middle School cafeteria and forum to get to basketball games after 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22, where around 200 concerned residents gathered for a community meeting about the proposed asphalt plant on the site of the old Salem City water plant – and voiced their strong opinions against the idea.
Adams Construction Company of Roanoke is filing to change the site from its current zoning as a low-intensity (I-1) industrial site to a high-intensity (I-2) industrial site with a special use permit for an asphalt plant with the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. The property is still owned by the city of Salem, but Adams plans to buy it if it is rezoned for their purposes.
Plans for the plant include using many of the existing buildings as containment structures, something that has never been done in the United States before. Sprinkler suppression systems, an earthen berm around the facility with native trees as well as the most current baghouse equipment and technology – run off of natural gas, will cut emissions from the plant by 99.5%, the company presented.
Adams is pursuing the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the project. The tallest storage stacks would be painted Glenvar green, even perhaps with a white “G.”
“It is my backyard. My house is approximately 1700 feet from the property line,” Gary Wright, the company’s president said. He says he wants to do what makes sense to the community and the environment. Adams Construction’s strongest evidence for their clean operation is their large plant in Harrisonburg. The city’s schools acquired the adjoining property and built two schools within plain view of the asphalt plant: Smithland Elementary School and Skyline Middle School.
“It was kind of a reverse situation,” said Rick James, the executive v.p. of the company. “We are used to going to the community, not the other way around.” Harrisonburg’s situation did little to assuade the Glenvar residents.
“They should know their EPA and DEQ designation requirements and design to it instead of requesting a blank check – that’s what they’re asking for,” said Suzanne Nicewonder, a parent of Glenvar students and an engineering teacher at Arnold R. Burton, who spoke close to last, at 9 p.m. “If I were Mr. Church, I would demand that information before I made any kind of decision,” she said towards the end of the meeting.
Residents voiced concern over the noise and the hours of operation, the possible pollution – no matter the small amount, and the odor.
“I thought for sure that a berm of trees was supposed to be built in front of Kroger [distribution center],” resident Herman Lowe said before the meeting. “It seems like this end of the county, we get dumped on a lot,” he said. His comments, one about how the smell from Koppers, Inc. already made it unpleasant to sit out on one’s porch in Cherokee Hills drew applause and even a few “amens” from his fellow Roanoke County citizens.
The most upset, it seemed, were those concerned about the health of the children in the nearby Glenvar High, Middle, and Elementary schools. Parents printed out copies of a flier from www.besafenet.com about asphault plant pollution and handed them out.
“I live right behind these schools and I have children that go to these schools,” Dawn Smith said. “My biggest concern is the contaminant in the air and the endangerment to the health of my family. We already have one big plant causing contamination in this area, Koppers, and we don’t need another cause.”
Judy Conyers, a parent and resident, came to the meeting prepared with her own presentation. She had done some of her own research on possible EPA citations by Adams Construction, and she presented it along with her concerns about health problems such as high blood pressure, sinus problems, headaches, and shortness of breath. She concluded by “asking Adams Construction Company to withdraw their request for rezoning.”
Adams Construction Company’s air quality and environmental consultant, Art Nunn, said that the studies indicating asphalt plants as a major source of pollutants were conducted on older and larger plants in the North Carolina and northern Virginia area. By his calculations, the emissions from this potential site would be the equivalent to four or five families burning wood stoves for heating purposes or less than the emissions of a small, neighborhood-sized gas station.
“Thirty years ago that was the stereotypical asphalt plant,” James said. “Much has changed, much like your automobile, just like the technology in industry.”
“We just hope that the board of supervisors have not already made up their mind, that this is not a done deal,” resident Diane Beason said.
The meeting for the approval or denial of Adams Construction’s zoning request is 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 3 at the Roanoke County Administration building right off of Electric Road. “Bring a friend … We’ve got four floors, we can hold you,” Roanoke County supervisor Joseph “Butch” Church told the crowd.
You can weigh in on the rezoning issue of the asphalt plant by clicking the “Comment” button below.
For another read on the meeting, click here to see Roanoke Times’ reporter Cody Lowe’s front page story from today’s (Jan. 23) newspaper.