Friday, November 16, 2001

Eramet missed chance to get facts out to area residents

The Marietta Times

It's clear that the 75 to 100 people attending an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency meeting to discuss Eramet's air pollution permit had some concerns they needed to air.
This week's meeting was to discuss the consolidation of some of Eramet's permits under one new permit as outlined by the federal Clean Air Act. The new permit won't change the amount of toxins the Eramet plant gives off into the air, but the new permit does improve the way the pollution is monitored and reported.
Local residents were visibly frustrated. A representative of the company who attended the meeting said people were outraged that their comments would have no bearing on how much waste this permit allowed the plant to emit into the air. He said it was his opinion that the residents felt they were misled about the purpose of the meeting.
Perhaps the residents are simply frustrated with Eramet, period. News accounts of the hearing, including those that ran in The Marietta Times, accurately explained that the volume of pollution allowed under the permit was not going to change. So perhaps people attended the meeting hoping to get a message across to the company -- they want Eramet to do more to clean up its processes in the future.
We have to ask why the Eramet representative chose not to identify himself to the people attending the meeting. He said he took notes on their concerns and passed them on to company executives. And while a few in attendance may have known him by name, it's likely the majority of the people there thought no one from Eramet attended.
He said he didn't speak up because the point of the meeting wasn't for the company to stand up and make a speech. On the contrary, we think he should have addressed their concerns personally. If nothing else, making his presence known would have sent a message to the community that the company cared enough to send someone to hear their questions.
And in response to the community's concerns, the company on Thursday released its latest reports on how much pollution Eramet released into the air during the year 2000. The good news is that air emissions are down. Unfortunately, the people attending the EPA hearing didn't get the benefit of getting that information first hand because the company representative chose not to speak and gave the information in writing to just a handful of people.
We think the company needs to take every opportunity -- even when the situation is an uncomfortable one -- to address community concerns about the impact the Eramet plant has on the community and the people who live here. While the community recognizes the benefits of the jobs the plant provides, the concerns about the environment are legitimate and should be addressed whenever they are raised.
We commend the company for doing more in recent years to be a good neighbor and work proactively to reduce emissions from the plant. But more needs to be done and plant representatives cannot shy away from any chance they have to acknowledge the community's concerns head on. Passions run high on both sides of the issue. That's even more reason for the company to communicate with the community whenever the opportunity presents itself.