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 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
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
"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.