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Essroc plans $320 million in upgrades to W.Va. plant

October 22, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A North American cement manufacturer's $320 million plan to revamp and expand its operations in Berkeley County will result in less emissions of tiny particles and ozone-causing gases, but certain other pollutants generated are expected to increase with more production, according to West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection officials.

Essroc, a member of Italcementi Group based in Bergamo, Italy, hopes to replace two of three kilns it has on a 849-acre plant site just south of Martinsburg at 1826 S. Queen St. with a new kiln by 2008, according to Hector Ybanez, Essroc's environmental affairs director.

The plan includes demolition of buildings, enclosure of raw material piles, paving of all plant roads and construction of a 435-foot "preheat" tower to serve the new kiln.

"You have to increase production when you do something this big," Ybanez said.

Essroc purchased the plant, formerly known as Capitol Cement Corp., in 2002.

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The plan will enable production to be boosted from 2,300 to 6,000 tons of product per day.

Steve Pursley, an engineer for the DEP's Division of Air Quality, reviewed Essroc's plans, which were permitted by the state in June 2005. A preliminary site plan was approved last week by the Berkeley County Planning Commission.

"They actually are reducing all pollutants except carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds," Pursley said.

The permit issued by the DEP allows Essroc to annually emit up to 992.1 tons of total suspended particulate matter, 5,702.6 tons of sulfur dioxide, 4,493 tons of carbon monoxide, 3,704 tons of oxides of nitrogen, 159.4 tons of volatile organic compounds, 1.2 tons of fluorides and 2.7 tons of lead.

"This really is the first (permit) that covers the whole plant," said Pursley, explaining previous plant modifications came before the federal Clean Air Act was adopted in 1970.

Ybanez said the company will not operate at the emission limits imposed with the permitted plant upgrades because "any little blip" would lead to a compliance issue. The company factored in a 25 percent to 30 percent emission "cushion" as part of the project, Ybanez said.

Aside from the cushion, Pursley said Essroc's emission limit for total suspended particulate matter - any material that doesn't immediately fall out of the air and may be carried off plant property - was reduced by 268.7 tons. Of that reduction, 45.2 tons will be particulate matter less than 10 microns in size, material not seen with the naked eye.

The permit also will result in an annual reduction of 287 tons of ozone-causing oxides of nitrogen, specifically nitrogen oxide, Pursley said.

The tower for the new kiln, which will be more than double the height of two existing stacks, will dilute and more greatly disperse emitted particulate matter and other pollutants, Pursley said.

The tower's planned construction caused concern because of its effect on flight patterns at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, Ybanez said.

"There was some oscillating as to whether we would get approval," Ybanez said.

Airport officials have agreed to institute restrictions on circling north of the airport to accommodate the plant's tower, which is less than two miles away, Ybanez said.

Berkeley County leaders in January announced an agreement with the company to obtain access to two potential sources of water at two quarry sites, including the Blairton quarry site.

"If there is no recirculating of water, there will be an additional 2 million gallons of water that the county can use," said William "Bill" Stubblefield, chairman of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District. A hydrologic study to see how much water there is and whether there is adequate recharging is expected to be completed in a few months, Stubblefield said.

Essroc now employs 189 people at the plant, Ybanez said.

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