Controversial cement plant secures first environmental permit

Posted February 29, 2012 2:45 p.m. EST

— A proposed cement plant near Wilmington received an air-quality permit Wednesday, marking the first in a series of environmental permits the controversial plant needs to open.

The state Division of Air Quality issued an air permit for Carolinas-Titan Cement Co. that sets strict limits for mercury and other emissions, officials said. 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 state officials said issuing an air-quality permit doesn't commit regulators 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,” Division of Air Quality Director Sheila Holman said in a statement. “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 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.

Some New Hanover residents and state environmental groups filed legal challenges after that state initially said the plant didn't have to meet certain Environmental Policy Act requirements.

Compared to the first draft air permit three years ago, the new permit would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 18 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions by 70 percent, particle pollution by 62 percent and mercury emissions by 82 percent.

Proponents say the plant would bring needed jobs to the area, while opponents have expressed concern over the potential impact the facility could have on the Cape Fear River.

A former cement plant on the site closed 30 years ago.