Titan America—the Greek cement manufacturer hoping to get an air permit from North Carolina’s Division of Air Quality—likes to tout the estimated 160 jobs their super-sized cement plant will create if they are allowed to build near Wilmington, North Carolina. But according to a new report conducted by a leading industry consultant based in Fairfax, Virginia, the Titan plant will be creating much more than jobs for the good citizens of the Cape Fear region.
The study issued last week details a host of serious public health impacts, as well as millions of dollars in health care costs associated with Titan’s pollution.
Specifically it estimated 530 cases of acute respiratory symptoms (such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath), 320 lost days of work, and 160 lost school or camp days. And that’s just from ozone-causing emissions. Estimates for health impacts associated with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) come out to 320 cases of acute respiratory symptoms and 54 lost days of work.
Most concerning is that one person in the tri-county area of New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender, could die prematurely from exposure to Titan’s pollution from May through September (when ozone impacts are highest) for each year the plant is in operation.
The report puts the total estimated health costs for the three counties somewhere between $6.3 and $6.7 million annually, but it’s only a snapshot of Titan’s full potential. Imagine if it looked at impacts in the region for the entire year or if it included all toxic air emissions associated with the Titan plant and mine.
The study was conducted on behalf of citizens in the Cape Fear region. Known collectively as the Stop Titan Action Network, the citizen’s group represents numerous environmental organizations, thousands of residents and hundreds of local physicians and businesses. Coincidentally, the study also validates comments that Titan says were slanderous and reason for the SLAPP suit filed against Wilmington pediatrician, Dr. David Hill. Local mom and activist, Mrs. Kayne Darrell, is also part of this suit.
And for all those folks reading this, tourists are not immune to the adverse impacts reported in this study, so if you like to visit our beaches in the summer, you may want to pack an inhaler with your bathing suit and sunscreen, should Titan come to town.
While this new study provides information on public health issues, results from additional studies that include economic impacts to our local commerce, impacts to our aquifer and adjacent Northeast Cape Fear river will also be forthcoming.
Titan officials now say they plan to start production of their NC plant in 2017—pushing back the promise of jobs by several years. No doubt the current slump in the US cement market is partly to blame, but if you’re unemployed, that’s a long time to wait for a paycheck. If you’re an elected official, however, the delayed time line offers plenty of reason why no permits need to be issued until all impacts have been carefully studied.
And speaking of elected officials, Governor Perdue has yet to step in to help our community in our request that no permits be issued until a comprehensive assessment is complete. The Governor has the authority and she’s used it (she intervened in the Alcoa and PCS Phosphates projects), yet when asked about Titan, she reportedly told a local county commissioner she’d take no action other than to wait for the science to determine what will happen from the project. Well, Governor Perdue, here’s a very real dose of science—paid for by a grant and other fundraising efforts from the citizens of the Cape Fear region—that should be more than compelling.
Of course there is one other way to assess impacts from Titan’s pollution, but that means waiting a few decades to count the exact number of children that will suffer more asthma attacks or miss school, or exactly how many adults end up in the emergency room with cardiovascular problems, or premature deaths.
Our community is hoping this isn’t the sort of science anybody would be waiting on. If so, we’re going to need a lot more than inhalers.
For more information about the new health impacts study on the Titan project, please go to www.stoptitan.org.