Titan America says North Carolina needs a cement plant to keep up with growth and demand, and the site in Castle Hayne is the most viable location.
On Thursday, government officials, environmental groups and interested businesses got a chance to provide input on that idea, the first step of a lengthy environmental review of the proposed cement plant and quarry. That review is led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The end product is an environmental impact statement, a document designed to disclose how Titan’s plans would affect the environment and evaluate a range of alternatives.
Corps officials emphasized Thursday the review is at the very beginning of the process and there’s lots of work to do before completing the document. While officials estimate the process could take roughly 18 to 24 months, changes in the proposal could change that, said Henry Wicker, project manager with the Corps.
“There’s no timeline,” he said.
Titan’s proposed project is to build a cement plant and quarry off Holly Shelter Road to serve much of North Carolina and slivers of South Carolina and Virginia for the next 30 years. The project is expected to create 160 jobs and invest $450 million in the local economy. Environmental groups and some residents are concerned, however, about air pollution from the plant and the destruction of about 1,000 acres of wetlands.
Titan officials say North Carolina is growing and needs a cement plant to meet demand for needed infrastructure, such as roads and schools. Moreover, Castle Hayne provides a large source of high quality stone needed to make cement.
“Cement is nothing but chemistry,” said Jay Willis, an environmental manager with the company. “If we had the right geology further inland without so much wetlands, we would definitely be looking at that area. But it doesn’t exist.”
Environmental groups want to make sure the Corps takes a critical look at the company’s claims before allowing it to destroy wetlands.