USA: Titan Cement and concerned citizens address county commissioners

USA: Titan Cement and concerned citizens address county commissioners
Published: 06 June 2008

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners heard concerns from hundreds of citizens at their June 2 meeting opposing the proposed construction of a cement plant in the Castle Hayne area by Titan America, LLC.

The meeting room at the Historic Courthouse in Downtown Wilmington was filled beyond capacity with citizens standing outside in the hall. The Board scheduled 15 minutes for the opposition to make their case and equal time for Titan America, LLC to speak to those concerns.

In April of this year the Board of Commissioners approved a resolution authorising a US$4.2m economic incentive package to Titan America, LLC to build a cement manufacturing plant in the Castle Hayne area. That vote was not unanimous. Commissioner Nancy Pritchett voted against the resolution. Commissioners Bobby Greer, Bill Caster, Ted Davis and Bill Kopp voted in favour of the incentives.

That grant would be payable over seven years at US$600,000 per year. Those funds would be contingent upon Titan making a new real and personal property investment of a minimum of US$450m and securing employment of 160 new employees in New Hanover County.

In a May 16 press release governor Mike Easley announced the cement plant, “Will create 161 new jobs during the next three years and a company investment of US$469m, was possible in part by a US$300,000 One North Carolina Fund grant.” That grant fund is used to recruit and give financial assistance to attract new business projects to the state to stimulate the economy.

Area residents upset about the April resolution voiced their opposition at the Board’s May 19 meeting. They cited extreme environmental impacts associated with the manufacturing processes and expressed concern over the close proximity to neighbourhoods and schools as well as impacts on 500 acres of wetlands as well as the Cape Fear River. The project has been in the works for nearly three years with the County and Wilmington Industrial Development Inc lobbying for the company to locate here.

With property already purchased, the plant would have to obtain state and federal permits. If successful, the plant would open on property in the 6400 block of Ideal Cement Rd in Castle Hayne along the bank of the Northeast Cape Fear River.

The major concerns voiced during the hearing centered on the release of mercury into the environment as a result of the manufacturing process and the economic factors of offering financial incentives to large corporations.

Titan America representatives said they take steps to meet all state and federal environmental regulations and undergo strict monitoring.

One representative said the federal and state permitting processes are transparent and allow ample opportunity for the public to offer comments opposing and favouring the proposed plant.

The board treated the meeting as an informational hearing taking no official action. Chairman Bobby Greer pointed out the location where Titan is seeking to build the cement plant was home to a former cement plant and the area is zoned for industrial use. Even without the incentives package, the company can build as long as they obtain federal and state permits.