More than 70 Cape Fear citizens spoke out about cement manufacturer Titan America’s requested extension on its proposed Castle Hayne plant at Monday night’s public hearing. The state Division of Air Quality, or DAQ, reports that so far, it has received about 800 additional written comments. However, the DAQ will only be able to consider public input addressing the technical aspects of the permit request.
Speakers relayed anecdotes about relatives with respiratory disease, compared the Cape Fear region to pollution hotbeds such as Barstow, California and Beijing, and debated whether Titan’s proposed cement plant would translate to local jobs. DAQ compliance supervisor Steve Hall serves as the case hearing officer.
"Your comments tonight and any written comments received during the public comment period will be considered by the division as we decide whether to issue, modify or deny the latest drafted air quality permit for the proposed facility."
After the comment period ends on Friday, Hall says his job is to decipher which public input actually relates to legality of the permit’s two tenets—the 18-month extension, and Titan’s request to adjust their particulate matter emission allowance to match the EPA’s newly adopted federal maximum. Hall says that feelings and speculation cannot be considered. But, he says he does plan to investigate comments that New Hanover County is already one of the state’s most polluted areas before submitting a recommendation to DAQ director Sheila Holman, who will make the ultimate decision. Hall says he has not yet been given a deadline.