Rockwool facility in Ranson, as viewed from the Black burial ground (Boyd Carter Memorial Cemetery) adjacent to the factory property.
Factory To Begin Production In June
According to the @ROCKWOOLRansonCommunity page on Facebook, the manufacturing facility will operate equipment in May to “run in” the factory, prior to beginning production operations in June. In an April 30 post, the company stated that “steam” will be visible from the chimney stack above the “wet electrostatic precipitator” (below, on right in photo) and a “plume” will be visible from the tall chimney (below, on left in photo).
Danish Institution Investigates Rockwool Actions in WV
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued updated Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in 2011. The Guidelines documents “principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognized standards.” The countries adhering to the Guidelines (including Denmark and the United States) make a binding commitment to implement them. In the context of the environment, the Guidelines are intended to guide behavior so that businesses act as soon as possible and in a proactive way to avoid serious or irreversible environmental damage resulting from their activities.
In October 2019, the Danish Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct (NCP Denmark) received a complaint against Rockwool filed by a West Virginia-based group. The complaint alleged that Rockwool violated the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Danish Institution conducted a preliminary investigation and found that it could not rule out that non-observance of the OECD Guidelines had taken place. Rockwool declined the Danish Institution’s offer of formal mediation and the Institution launched a full investigation. The Institution issued a final statement on June 3, 2021, finding that Rockwool “did not sufficiently observe the OECD Guidelines.”
The Danish Institution noted in its report that “the initial phases of the project were based on a transactional due diligence approach and thereby too narrowly focused on risks to the company itself rather than identifying potential adverse impacts on people, the environment, and society in accorance with the OECD guidelines.” Along with several recommendations, the Institution is requesting Rockwool to provide a follow-up report within one year about its response and actions to address these recommendations.
Litigation Over Stormwater Permits
In March 2020, the Jefferson County Foundation (JeffersonCountyFoundation.org) appealed the WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) permit issued to Roxul USA Inc. in February 2020 for construction activities in Ranson. The evidentiary hearing before the WV Environmental Quality Board (EQB) did not begin until December 2020 and continued into 2021. Final documents have been filed in this case and a ruling from the EQB on whether the DEP properly permitted the construction is pending. Since construction is substantially completed, the remedy requested in the appeal is for the WVDEP to develop official guidance for future projects to mitigate risk when building in karst.
During the EQB hearing WVDEP took the position that there was no official karst risk mitigation guidance and that Roxul’s submission of a sinkhole repair plan equated to a karst risk mitigation plan. Documents submitted to the EQB noted that WVDEP did require the Jefferson County Schools to provide a karst risk mitigation plan for a recent project (based on guidance that was posted and then later removed from the WVDEP website) and that this selective enforcement constitutes an arbitrary and capricious application of regulation under the administrative procedures act. A similar appeal against the stormwater permit for Rockwool factory’s operation was filed in December 2020 and the case is in process.
Air Quality Studies Begin
The local winds vary in direction and intensity throughout the year. The “wind rose” shows the patterns of winds blowing from the indicated directions (for example, the bar next to the “W” indicates winds blowing from the west). Depending on the day, any part of Jefferson County could be downwind from the mineral wool factory near Kearneysville. Researchers from the WVU School of Public Health research have begun a project to study the potential exposure and near-term health effects of heavy metals in children in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.By Staff Contributor