Activists Blast Planned Polluting Factory Near Keene

On May 9, a group of activists attended a public hearing in Winchester, New Hampshire, near Keene, to try to stop a proposed asphalt factory in Winchester. Asphalt is made of fossil fuels. It’s used to make roads and parking lots for cars and trucks. Cars and trucks cause global warming, acid rain, lung cancer, obesity, and some 40,000 deaths in traffic accidents every year in the U.S. Alternatives include walking, riding a bicycle, and trains and busses. Trains and busses are far more energy efficient – and much safer -- than cars and trucks for moving people and freight.

Among the anti-asphalt activists at the Winchester hearing were Winchester resident Jennifer Bellan, and Susan Moody and Mary Ryan, both of Swanzey, New Hampshire.

Winchester is about three miles from Massachusetts and four miles from Vermont. The locally-owned Keene Sentinel newspaper reported that asphalt factories pollute the air with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds.

Among the organizations that support more and better trains, sidewalks, and bicycle paths – and fewer cars and trucks -- are the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council

Two people who have fought pollution in recent years are:

New Hampshire Rep. Dan Carr
P.O. Box 111
Ashuelot, NH 03441
phone: (603) 239-6830

(Ashuelot borders Winchester.)


Professor Steve Chase
Antioch University New England
40 Avon Street
Keene, NH 03431
phone: (603) 283-2336

In January, the Winchester planning board approved the for-profit, corporate asphalt factory application. The factory would be built on the northern edge of town, on Route 10.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which held the May 9 hearing, will accept written comment until May 23. Residents of Massachusetts and Vermont may want to send copies of their comments to their U.S. senators and representatives.


Carr was at the May 9 hearing

Carr was at the May 9 hearing and read the below letter, which he also sent to the governor and Thomas Burack, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services


May 9, 2011


Thomas Burack, Commissioner

Department of Environmental Services

P.O. Box 95

Concord, NH 03302-0095

(603) 271-4974

Commissioner Burack,

The permitting rules for Hot Mix Asphalt plants in New Hampshire are outdated and dangerously neglect significant risks for cancer causing pollution of our air. For the reasons outlined below and others I am formally requesting that the Commissioner of DES suspend indefinitely all temporary permits for a complete official review of the rules. I am particularly concerned that the rules do not cover toxic fumes from the discharge of the product into the trucks and that the rules do not adequately specify the treatment of other fugitive emissions. It may be that the specific regulatory levels have not kept pace with changes such as the EPA revised fine particulate matter threshold and do not adequately reflect the levels of protections afforded under the OSHA regulations.

One of the by products of Hot Mix Asphalt plants that are not regulated by the NH DES is the Asphalt Fumes. This is a dangerous oversight when these plants are sited near residential neighborhoods. This is a particular problem because no study of the necessary set back to establish a reasonably safe distance from residential neighborhoods, has been conducted. In many other states there has been a discussion of this need and the distances have been set at one half mile up to a mile. In the EPA worst case scenario, such as a temporary malfunction of the filtering equipment at a Hot Mix Asphalt Plant the levels of arsenic, a cancer causing toxin, released exceed the Ambient Air Limit, or AAL, standards at 2.17 miles distance. So that if one of these plants has a burp then toxic levels of arsenic will cover an area more than 2 miles around the plant. Other toxins were shown to reach more than a mile.

The noxious odor emitted by Hot Mix Asphalt plants is also unregulated by NH DES, it is essentially an indicator of the fumes. These fumes contain cancer causing toxins (BTEX - benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene). There is no measurement of these toxins in the permit. The fumes during a discharge of the asphalt into the trucks can be overwhelming up to a mile away and depending on the winds even further away. As a baseline example look at the data provided by the DES temporary permit for a plant in Winchester. Asphalt Fumes emitted by the stack after filtering in the baghouse remain at a level of 1.64 lbs/hour. The OSHA standards determined that a level of .2mg/m3 of Asphalt Fumes is enough for a quantitative risk assessment of a significant risk of lung cancer. This would mean that the “clean” emissions from the plant would fill a football stadium with lung cancer causing emissions every ten minutes. These are the emissions from only the filtered stack. The discharge emissions from loading the trucks are much greater, creating a blue cloud around the truck as each one is loaded. The emissions continue as the trucks drive away from the site. People who live up to a mile away from these plants have said that stepping out of their house the odor is so strong it is like getting punched in the stomach. They can no longer sit out in their yards. These odors are part of the toxic fumes being emitted without any control.

While the need for asphalt continues to be important there are already enough plants in the state to serve the needs of the state of New Hampshire. Some plants are now being moved across the border from Massachusetts, such as the Winchester plant, to take advantage of the more lax regulatory structure of our outdated rules. For this reason it is essential that the state act to protect its citizens. There is no need to ask New Hampshire citizens to sacrifice their health. It will be particularly harsh to live near such plants for children and the elderly or people with breathing problems. It just makes common sense that this kind of industry belongs at least a mile away from the closest residential area and it may make sense to require enclosure of the entire loading process as was required recently to address these real dangers at a plant in Petaluma, California.


Daniel P. Carr

Cheshire District 4
Box 111
Ashuelot, NH 03441


c.c. Barbara Dorfschmidt, NH DES Air Resources Division
Governor John Lynch

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