Graniteville residents call on decision makers to protect their right to a healthy community
Graniteville, VT - On Wednesday, August 22, Graniteville residents were joined by State Senator Anthony Pollina and Naturopathic Physician Dr. Gabriel Archdeacon, at a press conference calling attention to the severe health, environmental and social impacts that would result from the proposed North East Materials Group hot mix asphalt plant and urged the Act 250 Commission to deny the company a permit.
“The EPA states that exposure to asphalt fumes may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver and respiratory damage,” stated Kalyn Rosenberg of Toxics Action Center, “Everyone has a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy community. This proposed asphalt plant would threaten these rights for the residents of Graniteville.”
Earlier this year, members of the Graniteville community discovered that a new polluting industry was coming to town and feared that their health could be on the line. North East Materials Group, an out-of-state company, has proposed transporting an aged hot-mix asphalt plant up from South Carolina and reassembling it in the heart of Upper Graniteville. This facility, in addition to several existing rock crushers, would be located less than half of a mile away from homes. Members of the Graniteville community grew further concerned when they learned that this plant would be permitted to pollute the neighborhood with tons of noxious air pollutants, such as hydrogen sulfide, benzene and formaldehyde, and bring an additional 164 one-way trucks into the community daily.
Lori and Marc Bernier, residents of Graniteville for over 40 years, have been organizing to prevent the construction of the proposed asphalt plant. “With the additional traffic that is proposed for the asphalt plant, all hope to retain a quality of life here, in our small rural town, will be diminished. Is it right for our taxpaying residents here in Graniteville to be asked to trade in their human existence as they've known it as a trade off for an industry to profit? The residents of Graniteville say ‘no’”, stated Lori Bernier.
The Berniers and many other residents formed the group, Neighbors for Healthy Communities, and enlisted the help of attorney Christopher Ahlers of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School to provide legal representation throughout the process. Many in the group are especially vulnerable to asphalt plant pollution because they already suffer serious health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The group has been working to encourage decision makers on all levels to protect their quality of life by denying any local and state permits for the asphalt plant.
“Even with regulation, a plant like this will release hazardous chemicals into the environment. Many of these chemicals are proven to cause disease and illness in humans,” stated Dr. Gabriel Archdeacon, “What is allowed into the environment and was once considered safe, is leading to a wide variety of health problems in our communities.”
Throughout the process, community members have questioned whether decision makers from the local to the state level have done enough to protect residents. Residents state that this project went through the town permitting process nearly unnoticed and through the state permitting process quite rapidly. Community members are confident in the strength of their arguments but are concerned about the fairness of the process and are now calling on decision makers to scrutinize the project for potential health impacts and the effects of the immense truck traffic.
“We want every question answered and every effort made to protect the health of this community,” said State Senator Anthony Pollina.
While the group has been actively involved in the various state permitting processes, including Act 250, for nearly 5 months, the group feels like they have been rushed through the process unfairly. At the press conference on Wednesday, the community group called on the town, the state, and the District Commission to recognize that this is a decision that will not only impact the immediate health, safety and quality of life for residents now, but will also have a profound effect on the future of Graniteville.
“We urge the District 5 Commission to deny the permit for the asphalt plant. It is our point of view that the correct and most beneficial action in preserving the health and quality of life for myself, family and neighbors in our community is to not allow this asphalt plant to be located so close to our homes, playgrounds, schools and daycares,” stated Lori Bernier.
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