Scientist have little to say


First Posted: 3/27/2009

DOBSON State officials and scientists were on hand Thursday night for a public information meeting on the proposed Fibrowatt plant to answer questions regarding the power plants potential effect on the environment.
But, they had few definitive answers.
Deanna Osmond, a professor at N.C. State University, spoke about soil science.
She explained that while animal waste is an excellent natural fertilizer it sometimes carries with it long-term consequences.
Farmers currently spread chicken litter on their fields for fertilizer, however, the amount of phosphorous in the litter does not absorb into the ground like the nitrogen that is also present. State regulators have expressed concerns about phosphorous getting carried off into local drinking water.
She explained chicken litter has lots of phosphorus in it naturally. She said some fields have had chicken litter applied for such a long time that the phosphorus does not get absorbed and ends up in run off water.
A member of the audience asked Osmond if there is anything else that can be done with chicken litter besides burning it.
In Maryland, they are palletizing it, and now it is sitting in Home Depot. I dont know if any of you have ever smelled that. Everybody is talking about carbon footprint. There are other things you can do, but there are problems with them as well, Osmond answered.
Margaret Love with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Air Quality Division, spoke on the state permitting process for Fibrowatt.
It is very premature for me to be speaking today. I dont know what their emissions will be. We dont even have an application from them. We cover 14 counties in the northern part of the state. We have hundreds of state regulations, and they will have to comply with every regulation. Assuming they do get a permit, they will be inspected on a regular basis. There will be regular stack testing from an independent firm who will then report back to us. All stack testing is done with excruciating detail, Love said.
When Commissioner Jim Harrell Jr. questioned Love on the current quality of the air in Surry County she said it is much cleaner than was in years past.
It is cleaner now that it was five years ago. With a decrease in industry in the county and a decrease in the amount of vehicles on the road due to that decrease and with higher fuel prices. There arent as many cars and trucks on the road, therefore the air is cleaner now than it was five years ago, Love responded.
Some members of the commissioners, as well as local economic development agencies, also spoke in support of the plant.
Commissioner Bill Hamlin said he believes that Fibrowatt will benefit the county.
Surry County has lost 6,400 jobs. Surry County has a diversified economy. We are interested in recruiting. Is Fibrowatt a good fit.? I believe they will bring new employment and a new tax base. It will be providing a commodity that cannot be displaced or shipped over seas, Hamlin said.
Commissioner Harrell asked the audience members Thursday night if they thought the county could exist without industry in the county.
Can we do without manufacturing? I talked to several folks today who have lost their jobs. I have no problem with the environmental side of this and Ive heard all I need to hear, unless there is something different you want to say, Harrell told the crowd during his opening statement.
Commissioner Jimmy Miller said he considers Fibrowatts move to Surry County to be a good thing.
The Surry County Economic Development Partnership (EDP) fully endorses the location of a Fibrowatt plant in Surry County, according to Ted Ashby, chairman of the EDP.
Fibrowatt will provide our poultry farmers options in disposal of their litter. Fibrowatt will generate power from a renewable source. Fibrowatt will increase our tax base by $140 million and the company will generate 80 new jobs. All of this will be accomplished under the oversight of our state and federal regulatory agencies, whose mission is to ensure our health and welfare, Ashby said.
At the meeting Thursday night at Surry Central High School, area residents had a chance to listen to those who support bringing Fibrowatt to the area and experts who could shed some light on some issues of concern.
Commissioners have been working with Fibrowatt over the past two-and-half-years to see whether or not the company would be a good fit for Surry County. Fibrowatt has proposed building a power plant in Surry County, along the Yadkin River, which utilizes chicken litter and other biomass products to produce electricity.
Commissioner Bill Hamlin said he believes that Fibrowatt will benefit the county.
Surry County has lost 6,400 jobs. Surry County has a diversified economy. We are interested in recruiting. Is Fibrowatt a good fit.? I believe they will bring new employment and a new tax base. It will be providing a commodity that cannot be displaced or shipped over seas, Hamlin said.
Commissioner Jim Harrell Jr., asked the crowd Thursday night if they thought the county could exist without manufacturing.
Can we do without manufacturing? I talked to several folks today who have lost their jobs. I have no problem with the environmental side of this and Ive heard all I need to hear, unless there is something different you want to say, Harrell told the crowd during his opening statement.
Commissioner Jimmy Miller said he considers Fibrowatts move to Surry County to be a good thing.
Commissioner Chairman Craig Hunter explained what he saw on a trip to Benson, Minnesota about two years ago to the first Fibrowatt plant in America.
I was on the trip to Benson. We flew in, rented a van and stopped in town to get a perspective in town. We couldnt see steam or smoke from downtown. The plant was on a two lane-highway, leading out of town. As we got closer, we could see the facility in the distance, we would stop every mile or half mile. We are down wind, so we thought if there was a smell, we would be able to smell it. We stopped across the street where there was a golf course and a public swimming pool. We got out in the parking lot smelling, looking and listening. Once we got into the facility, two or three things stuck out in my mind, there was no odor. We walked around the entire parameter. There is noise inside, we went into the control room and they showed us their regulatory controls. They were maintaining a certain level of energy. They made sure it was at full capacity. They have to maintain a certain amount of megawatts. It was very clean. You could say they cleaned it up for the open house. There was no noise, no odor. I think that was it, Hunter said.
Local businessman Greg Perkins spoke on behalf of the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce at the meeting.
When you look back at our community, we have been primarily a tourist destination. Most of the industry came here because they chased cheap labor. We are not at critical mass. We have to seize every opportunity. One of the things about our area is that we had a narrow variety of industries. So when the perfect storm of NAFTA hit us, it devastated the Southeast. Now we are having to catch ourselves back up. We have to have a variety of industries. We have to be open minded of it. … Are we holding up a sign that says we are not interested? Speaking on behalf of the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, I say we are putting our support behind Fibrowatt, concluded Perkins.
President and Chief Executive Officer of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce Laurette Leagon spoke in favor of Fibrowatt at the meeting.
If Surry County and its families are to survive, we must have a diverse economy. We cannot rely on a single entity for our survival. Agriculture is 24 percent of our local economy. We have to support these farmers and make sure they continue to thrive. Tourism is a growing segment of the economy, but not everyone can or wants to work in hospitality. We have a stronghold in healthcare, but again thats not for everyone. Trust me, you would not want me to be your nurse. And we have manufacturing and industry. The opportunities to recruit industries to an area are few and far between. There are a tremendous amount of people in Surry County who are asking for jobs. Our unemployment exploded to 12.7 percent in January and Surry County has dropped from a Tier 2 to a Tier 1 county and that is not something the chamber is proud to say, Leagon said. The Tier system is a ranking of economic strength, with the lower number represent more economic distress.
We need the jobs that Fibrowatt will provide long-term, the jobs that could last from 18 months to two years while the plant is being built, and the boost it will give to our currently independently-owned small businesses that will supply the needed products and services. And once Fibrowatt is a part of our community, it will offer opportunities for their suppliers to come to Surry County and provide even more jobs, Leagon said.
Hunter said that he came away from the four-hour meeting with a good feeling.
I think it was a very informative meeting. I think we had a great turnout. Out of about 250 people, we had about 60 percent of the people were for Fibrowatt, and 40 percent were against it. A lot of the people were thanking us afterwards for having the meeting, Hunter said.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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