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‘What You Need to Know’: Community forum discusses updates in Rockwool controversy

By Staff | Jan 10, 2020

Mike Glenn, the former director of the United States Department of Agriculture research station in Kearneysville, discusses the agricultural concerns related to the Rockwool plant, during the community forum in the Storer Ballroom on Friday night. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Not willing to give up the fight against Rockwool’s insulation manufacturing plant yet, the leaders of Jefferson County Foundation, Inc., have continued to research potential legal concerns connected with the plant, and the ramifications its construction could have on the environment.

With their most recent research in hand, the environmental group welcomed community members to come learn more at a forum in the Storer Ballroom on Friday night.

“I know that people have not been aware of what Rockwool has been proposing and the industrialization of that site,” said Beth Rosenberg, of Harpers Ferry, referring to the plant’s location, which previously was an orchard near three local schools. “There are serious issues that may occur, because they will be discharging dangerous chemicals and materials into our environment.

“I feel like there is a lack of transparency at many levels of government that brought Rockwool here to the county,” Rosenberg said. “I think there are many types of economic development that would have been better for Jefferson County. I don’t think [Rockwool] is a good fit for a county that is known for its beauty and agriculture.”

While many of the attendees were Jefferson County residents, the forum also drew attention from environmental groups in the tristate area.

The community forum speakers, who spoke from their professional knowledge, experience and research on the Rockwool controversy, prepared their thoughts before speaking in the Storer Ballroom on Friday night. Tabitha Johnston

“There’s a group of us here from Hagerstown, Maryland, with the Sierra Club of Washington County,” said Diana Woodall, of Hagerstown. “We’re just 35 miles away from this area, and if this goes on, there will be air pollution issues that will happen. The air, when the wind’s blowing from the south, will blow the pollution to our homes.

“It’s not just a Jefferson County issue — it’s really a four-state issue,” Woodall said, mentioning public officials in her county have made their position on the Rockwool controversy clear. “There have been several Washington County municipalities that have issued resolutions opposed to Rockwool, including from Sharpsburg and Hagerstown.”

The Jefferson County Foundation, Inc., representatives each had a unique perspective to bring to the conversation, because each speaker had professional experience in a relevant field. The speakers included Christine Wimer, MS in applied molecular biology and DVM DACVS-LA; Lori Maloney, MS in biology and Smithsonian Institute research associate; Gavin Perry, architect LEED-AP; Susan April, MS geophysical science and principal environmental scientist of 30 years; and Mike Glenn, PhD. and former director of the United States Department of Agriculture research station in Kearneysville.

“Rockwool needs to follow the rules — that’s it. We laid out a lot of arguments for places where Rockwool has not taken the right steps. We are here, and we will be holding them accountable for their actions,” Maloney said.

According to Maloney, she hopes the forum attendees will have taken away more information, which will lead them to contact government officials about their opposition to the plant.

Community attendees munch on free pizza, as they listen to the discussion in the Storer Ballroom on Friday night. Tabitha Johnston

“This isn’t over — there area lot of really important questions that need to be raised with the state agencies — things that need to be done now, to protect our air and water resources,” Maloney said, mentioning the state needs to remember that it is supposed to act on behalf of the people of the state, not out of self-interest. “Everything they do needs to be for the health of local residents.”

To watch the video of the community forum, visit www.jeffersoncountyfoundation.org/community-forum-on-rockwool-packs-the-house/.

Beth Rosenberg, of Harpers Ferry, looks at sheets of data presented at the forum in the Storer Ballroom on Friday. Tabitha Johnston