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Air permit issued for proposed cement plant near Wilmington

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TWC News: Air permit issued for proposed cement plant near Wilmington
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CASTLE HAYNE - A proposed cement manufacturing plant near Wilmington received an air quality permit today with strict limits for mercury and other air pollutants. The air permit is the first in a series of environmental permits that Carolinas-Titan Cement Co. would need for the facility in northern New Hanover County.

The N.C. Division of Air Quality issued an air permit that sets emissions limits based on all applicable state and federal air quality standards. The standards applied to the permit are more stringent than those in effect when the facility was first proposed in 2008. The project still must receive environmental permits from other state and federal agencies and the issuance of an air permit does not commit the state to issue any of the remaining permits.

“This permit ensures that the Titan plant will require state-of-the art air pollution controls to protect public health and the environment,” said DAQ Director Sheila Holman. “Air emissions would be much lower than expected when the facility was first proposed.”

Titan initially applied for the air permit to construct and operate a Portland cement manufacturing plant at 6411 Ideal Cement Road in Castle Hayne in April 2008, but the permitting decision was drawn out due to changes in federal air quality regulations that required Titan to modify its permit application and a court order that stopped review of the permit application for a number of months. Since the permitting process began, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has adopted more stringent limits on a number of air pollutants that would be emitted by the facility.

The new permit requires the facility to meet stricter EPA regulations for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, greenhouse gases, mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. Compared to the first draft air permit that went to public notice in 2009, the new permit would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 18 percent, reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 70 percent, reduce particle pollution by 62 percent and reduce mercury emissions by 82 percent.

Under the air permit, Carolinas Cement is required to comply with current state and federal rules for controlling carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, visible emissions, volatile organic compounds, greenhouse gases, mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. The plant must use state-of-the-art air pollution control devices, including bag filters, a scrubber and selective non-catalytic reduction system and carbon injection. Other permit conditions require the facility operators to:

• Monitor and inspect air pollution control equipment on a set schedule;
• Conduct periodic stack testing of emissions from the kiln system;
• Operate continuous emission monitors for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, total hydrocarbons and visible emissions; and
• Comply with state limits on air toxics.

The division held public hearings on a previous draft permit for the facility in September 2009, but the application was placed on hold due to a court decision. The court determined that Titan would need to conduct a full environmental impact study before receiving any permits because it planned to accept state and local economic incentives. The company later declined the incentives and DAQ resumed processing of the application in January 2011.

DAQ released a revised draft air permit in August 2011 and held public hearings on the new draft in September 2011. The draft permit was open for public review and comment until Oct. 31, 2011.

A draft air quality permit allows for public comment and review of DAQ’s findings before the division decides whether to issue the permit as written; issue the permit with modifications; or deny the permit. The final permit issued by DAQ includes a number of modifications in response to comments, which are outlined in the permit documents.

By law, the DAQ must review permits for compliance with air quality regulations. The division has no authority over zoning, land use or where a company decides to locate a facility. Local governments are responsible for regulating land use. If the facility receives all applicable permits and is constructed, it would be the state’s only cement manufacturing plant. Carolinas Cement Co. has maintained a plant at the site for many years, but kiln operations ceased at the facility in 1982.

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