Jefferson County residents “Rally Against Rockwool” to gain support from EPBA
KEARNEYSVILLE — Although the Eastern Panhandle Business Association’s meeting at Hospice of the Panhandle was held during the middle of the day, over 35 Rockwool protesters showed up to stand at the entrance of Hospice Lane on Friday, hoping to attract the EPBA members’ support.
Women’s March West Virginia, Eastern Panhandle Pipeline Protectors, Vigilance Jefferson County and Citizens Concerned About Rockwool planned the rally. According to one of the rally coordinators, Susannah Buckles, of Charles Town, the groups hope to gain the support of more influential people, who might be able to prevent Rockwool from building its plant in the Eastern Panhandle.
“This is the potential end of the world as we know it for Jefferson County — and not just Jefferson County, but the entire Eastern Panhandle. There are no walls that can protect one county’s environment from another’s,” Buckles said.
According to Rockwool North America President Trent Ogilvie, Rockwool secured an EPA Clean Air Act permit on April 30 for its Ranson stone wool production plant, and will operate well within state and federal environmental regulations on hazardous air pollutants, including formaldehyde. But many community members are concerned the regulations aren’t strict enough to protect Jefferson County’s environment and the health of its inhabitants from the pollutants’ negative effects.
More than one protester said their own or their family members’ pre-existing health conditions, including lung cancer and asthma, would make it impossible for them to remain in the area if Rockwool is allowed to build.
“I have asthma, and this is one of the best places I’ve lived, but if this continues, I’ll be forced to move — we live too close for me to be able to breathe comfortably,” said Paige Feliciano, of Shenandoah Junction, who lives two minutes away from the former Jefferson Orchards, Inc. location.
According to Buckles, who is the daughter of now-deceased World War II veteran Frank Buckles, her father raised her to love Jefferson County, and she can’t stand by and allow Rockwool’s plant to pollute the environment.
“My father loved his farm and loved this county, and brought me up to love this county as well. I’ve done some research and asked some questions — I’m not upset about it because it’s something new moving in. But I will stand up for things I care about,” Buckles said, mentioning a real estate agent she knows anticipates surrounding house values will drop 30-35 percent if Rockwool is allowed to build its plant in Ranson.
According to Andrea Hines, of Shepherdstown, her family moved up here from Washington, D.C. to enjoy living in a clean, country environment.
“One of the reasons we moved out of the D.C. area, was to get away from all the construction. We loved that this was a country area — and so we stayed. No matter what your politics are, we all want to breathe this air, drink this water, enjoy this beauty,” Hines said. “I hope that everyone who can stop this will stop Rockwool from building. People are starting to change their minds, and hopefully more people in power will do so.”