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Thursday, November 15, 2001

Eramet permit on track for approval

EPA conducts hearing in Marietta on emissions


Special to The Times


Karen Miller said she and her family moved to their home on Washington County 13 two years ago expecting to stay in that idyllic spot for many years to come.

Now, they want to leave as soon as possible.

Miller said the thick ammonia smell coming from the nearby Eramet plant forces her to shut herself in her house with windows tightly closed every night.

She was one of about a dozen people who testified Wednesday night at a public hearing concerning the plant's pollution permits. Nearly 100 people attended the meeting.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency conducted the meeting at Marietta High School to collect comments on proposed Title V regulations. According to Kay Gilmer of the EPA's Division of Air Pollution Control the changes won't effect the amount of material the plant is allowed to discharge into the air, but it does require additional monitoring and reporting.

The company is seeking a new air pollution permit as part of new federal clean air requirements. The new permit basically consolidates all the company's other air pollution permits. All companies in Ohio are undergoing a change in their permit process according to requirements of the Clean Air Act.

"It ensures a record of ongoing compliance and that's a positive step," Gilmer said.

Officials said the EPA is on track to grant the permit in four months and is unlikely, under any circumstances, to deny it. EPA officials said any problems would be worked out in discussions with Eramet.

Eramet employs about 480 people, making it the largest single industrial employer in Washington County. The company has already announced that it has a goal of building a new furnace at the plant that would secure those jobs and address many of the environmental concerns.

Eramet on Ohio 7 was recently ranked as the fourth largest emitter of toxic chemicals in Ohio, according to the 1999 Toxic Release Inventory report.

Many of the 100 or so people who attended the public hearing were disappointed their concerns about the plant's level of pollution probably wouldn't have any impact on the process but took the opportunity to point out the potential health effects millions of tons of particulates released each year asserting levels of chromium, manganese and ammonia could cause a myriad of mild and serious health problems from burning eyes to cancer.

Another neighbor of the plant, Tom Hockenbrocht, said he shared Miller's concerns. He said there seems to be more control on cigarettes than dangerous air pollutants.

"Many nights, I come home and the air is unbelievable," he said.

Caroline Beidler said she suffers from nausea and a stuffy head and those are the short-term effects.

"We don't know what the long-term problems are," she said.

Jack Kister, of Amesville, claimed he could smell Eramet emissions in his community 20 miles away.

Several of those who spoke said they recognized the economic importance of the plant but hoped Eramet could reduce pollution while maintaining jobs.

Eric Fitch, president of a Marietta environmental group, Recover, insisted the EPA has the power to investigate some of the community's concerns.

"It is incumbent on you (the EPA) to gather more information before this permit is finalized," he said.

Dianne Crandall, of Marietta, told the EPA the permit being sought didn't appear to have any benefit.

"It's not solving any of our pollution problems. It's just adding another level of bureaucracy," she said.


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