The Army Corps of Engineers review of Titan America’s proposed cement plant will kick into gear next week when an advisory group meets in Wilmington.
The group, consisting of government agencies and interested environmental and business groups, will meet Feb. 5 at the Hampton Inn off Old Eastwood Road.
That body will provide feedback to aid the Corps, which is developing a document that will disclose how Titan’s project would affect the environment and evaluate a range of alternatives.
The document, called an environmental impact statement, will be used to decide if Titan receives permission to mine wetlands.
Henry Wicker, project manager for the Corps, said next week’s meeting will cover the "purpose and need" for the project. In other words, why Titan believes there’s a need for a cement plant here and why Titan considers Castle Hayne the most viable location.
"We’re at the very beginning stages of the process," said Wicker, who emphasized that the purpose of the meeting is to receive feedback from the designated agencies and groups.
"This is not a meeting for this project or against this project," he said.
Titan contends the Tar Heel State needs a cement plant to keep up with population growth and the need for new infrastructure. North Carolina consumes the most cement of any state that doesn’t have a plant of its own, according to Titan’s draft purpose and need statement.
Furthermore, an analysis of rock formations in the Southeastern United States identified five areas that contain limestone suitable for cement making.
Of those, Titan’s analysis determined the Castle Hayne formation in this area "would best serve the need" for cement in the projected market area, which includes much of North Carolina and parts of Virginia and South Carolina. The next step is to analyze alternatives within in Southeastern North Carolina.
Titan officials maintain that the chosen location off Holly Shelter Road in Castle Hayne is the best place for the plant and quarry. The site is a source of quality limestone and home to a closed cement plant and an active stone quarry. It’s close to highways, rail access and the port, plus local sources for ingredients such as fly ash and gypsum.
The plant is expected to create 160 jobs and invest $450 million in the local economy. But many residents and environmental groups say it will pump dangerous pollutants into the air and destroy valuable wetlands.