Landfill information meetings scheduled

Published 9:41 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

SEABOARD – As promised, a private firm proposing to construct a facility near here that will store and recycle coal combustion residuals (CCR) will conduct a pair of public information meetings.

commonly referred to as coal ash).

C. Wood Beasley III, one of the two founding partners of VistaGreen, said the meetings will be held at the Seaboard Town Hall (102 West Central Street) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31 and again on Wednesday, Feb. 1 (same time).

“The Town of Seaboard has graciously allowed us the use of their facility to hold these meetings,” Beasley said. “As a side note to that, the use of the Town Hall is not an endorsement of our project by town officials in Seaboard.

“We encourage the public, particularly those living in the general vicinity of the proposed facility, to attend one of these meetings,” Beasley added. “We want the public to know all the facts about CCR storage facilities, to include how we plan to use state-of-the-art materials to construct this facility that will protect the environment, and the economic impact this facility will have on Northampton County, to include 75 permanent jobs and the millions of dollars we’ll pay the county in host fees.”

On Jan. 17, VistaGreen filed for a special use permit on an 804 acre tract of land located southeast of NC 186 between Seaboard and Margarettsville. That property, which lies between High Bridge Road and Tower Road, is zoned A-R (Agricultural/Residential), according to the Northampton County Planning and Zoning Department.

The request for a special use permit will initially be heard by the Northampton County Planning Board during their next scheduled meeting on Feb. 8. That meeting is open to the public.

As stated in a Jan. 21 article published by this newspaper, Beasley said the proposed High Bridge Park facility would only accept CCR material, which is a byproduct of the coal combustion process known as coal ash. He said the material would be stored within two landfills, each lined with a thick, durable membrane of high density polyethylene that will be placed on top of a two-foot layer of compacted clay soil. That barrier is designed to prevent any contaminants from migrating into groundwater, Beasley said.

“This material is classified as nonhazardous by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) under rules adopted during the Obama administration,” Beasley said. “It has no odor.”

Beasley and his VistaGreen partner, Clarence Mann of Raleigh, purchased the 804 acres in December 2015.

The closest residence to the sprawling tract of land is 2,000 feet outside its borders, according to Beasley. Due to the fact that the site plan not yet being finalized, Beasley stressed that the current 2,000 foot buffer between the proposed facility and the nearest residence could increase during the permitting process by moving the storage areas further in from the properly line.

Beasley said this particular site was selected due to its remote nature, adding that it would not be visible from nearby roads; is not the home of any state or federally protected species; does not contain any historic or archaeological sites; and has on-site access by rail.

“One of the key elements of this particular property is its proximity to the CSX rail line,” Beasley noted. “In our plans is the construction of a spur line off the main rail line so we can have the rail cars containing the material shipped directly onto the property. That drastically reduces the number of trucks on the local roads carrying this material.”

According to a map of the property, as provided by Beasley, the site will contain two storage units (landfills). One is 62 acres while the second covers 157 acres.

Additionally there are six ponds proposed, all placed in strategic locations.

VistaGreen is required to make an application and receive a franchise from the Northampton County Board of Commissioners before it is allowed to operate. Beasley said that franchise is basically a “host fee” his company will pay to the county, much like the deal forged decades ago by Republic Waste that pays millions annually to Bertie County local government for the solid waste landfill there.

“Based on expected volume at the two storage facilities, we have calculated payments in excess of $20 million to Northampton County (local government) over a period of 10-to-15 years,” Beasley said.

Recycling the material also creates the opportunity for other companies to locate at High Bridge Park, which brings the possibility of more jobs as well as adding to the county’s tax base. Beasley said it would take approximately two to three years before the facility would begin to accept CCR. Another year would pass before the storage areas have enough volume where the recycling process would begin.

“In three or four years (after the facility opens), the need could arise to recycle the CCR for its current applied purposes, which include use in making bricks, concrete and asphalt. They are the applied usages today; there could be other uses developed down the road,” Beasley said.

Beasley said he is keenly aware of one major hurdle to clear if the project is approved – public perception of coal ash, particularly the reports of spills at several facilities operated by Duke Energy over recent years. One was three years ago when an underground pipe burst at a Duke Energy steam station north of Greensboro, spilling close to 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. The toxic sludge spread 70 miles downstream.

“Those spills came from unlined landfills; the landfills we propose are lined,” Beasley said. “Those spills came at facilities located adjacent to waterways. There are no waterways on the High Bridge Park property.”

As far as the six ponds that are currently designed for construction at the proposed facility, Beasley said they are necessary for capturing storm water run-off and contact surface water. He added those ponds would be lined with the same material used within the two landfills.

“Everything at the facility must be approved and permitted by DEQ (Division of Environmental Quality, a state agency),” Beasley stressed, adding that water samples at the facility are required to be taken on a regular basis and submitted for testing by DEQ.

“There will be monitoring wells located on site and the samples taken from those wells are submitted to the state to confirm that nothing is leaking and the soil and groundwater are not contaminated,” he added.

To date, Beasley said VistaGreen has not entered into any contract to accept CCR from companies that burn coal to produce electricity.

“We first have to gain approval of the special use permit before we can even start talking to any company, whether it be Duke Energy, Dominion Power or whomever, to accept their material,” Beasley said.

As part of its outreach effort, which includes the public meetings scheduled next week in Seaboard, Beasley said VistaGreen mailed letters, a map of the property, and a question/answer sheets to all property owners located near High Bridge Park on Jan. 13.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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