Press Release | December 9, 2009

Groups Appeal for Environmental Review of Titan Cement Plant

Groups today appealed to Wake County Superior Court for a comprehensive review of public health and environmental impacts from the proposed Titan America cement plant after a N.C. Department of Administration ruling allowed the plant to go forward without such a review. Built on the Northeast Cape Fear River in Castle Hayne, the cement kiln would be the fourth-largest cement plant in the country and a significant source of toxic emissions, such as mercury and hydrochloric acid. The mine for the limestone to make the cement would destroy about 1,000 acres of wetlands.

Among the groups requesting the review and concerned by toxic emissions from the proposed plant are the North Carolina Coastal Federation and Cape Fear River Watch represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“Citizens of North Carolina are paying $4.5 million to bring this company to the state and will endure the public health and environmental consequences of the plant’s pollution for decades; they deserve to know what they’re buying before Titan starts building,” said Geoff Gisler, attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center.

The groups originally petitioned Governor Perdue’s Department of Administration on September 10 for a comprehensive environmental review by citing the State Environmental Policy Act which requires such examination of all projects involving state action and public funds with potential environmental impact prior to permitting. The state’s Division of Air Quality drafted a permit for the cement plant without first conducting a comprehensive review.

“The state should not be splitting hairs on whether or not SEPA applies to this project,” said Mike Giles, Cape Fear COASTKEEPER, N.C. Coastal Federation. “The public deserves to know how this project would affect their health and environment before our government moves forward. In 2008, the state correctly determined SEPA applied; that was the right choice for citizens of North Carolina then, and it’s the right choice now.”

The state and New Hanover County, where the cement kiln and mine will be located, awarded Titan America $300,000 and $4.2 million respectively in support of the project.

“It’s disappointing that North Carolina’s allowed one of our most basic environmental laws to be avoided by a heavily polluting industry such as Titan Cement,” said Doug Springer, CAPE FEAR RIVERKEEPER ®, Cape Fear River Watch. “To protect our air, water, and the health of our citizens the challenge to the state’s decision now must be moved to our courts.”

North Carolina already lists the adjacent Northeast Cape Fear River as impaired by mercury contamination. As a ‘blackwater river,’ it constitutes an ecosystem that a recent U.S. Geological Survey study found to be particularly vulnerable to mercury contamination.

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.

About North Carolina Coastal Federation
The North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF) is the state’s only non-profit organization focused exclusively on protecting and restoring the coast of North Carolina through education, advocacy and habitat restoration and preservation.

About Cape Fear River Watch
Cape Fear River Watch was founded in 1993 and began as a nonprofit organization, open to everyone, dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the health, beauty, cleanliness, and heritage of the Cape Fear River Basin. CFRW’s mission is to “protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River Basin through education, advocacy and action.” CFRW supports the work of the Cape Fear RIVERKEEPER, a member of the WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE.

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