Thursday, July 20, 2017

Noise, traffic, dust, lack of community engagement top concerns about proposed East Rockville asphalt crushing plant

About forty Rockville residents, community leaders and City officials attended a public hearing last night, regarding the asphalt crushing plant proposed for 14900 Old Dover Road in East Rockville. Natalia Luis, Chairman and COO of applicant M. Luis Products, Co., and company President David Slaughter said locating the plant in Rockville would eliminate 5000 annual truck trips through the city. Nearby residents expressed concerns about noise, dust, odors, traffic and a lack of notification of the proposed plant.

The crushing plant recycles asphalt, which can be up to 30% of the material mixture M. Luis uses as road surfacing. Luis said the firm limits recycled asphalt to 30% because using much more than that would produce weaker material that would not meet the company's high standards for durability. She said that as a small, family-owned firm, M. Luis has difficulty obtaining a steady, sustainable supply of recycled material, so it is "better to do it ourselves." M. Luis is currently the only women-owned, minority-owned asphalt business in America, and has received recognition from Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump in recent years.

Slaughter told attendees that M. Luis currently has to either crush asphalt in a cramped space at their property on Southlawn Lane, or send it as one of those 5000 truckloads to a crushing plant in Laurel. He said they leased the Old Dover Road site from the current junkyard tenant, and have cleaned it up, getting rid of tractor trailers, cars and auto parts languishing on-site. Slaughter added that M. Luis would like to buy the property in the future, if possible. Luis expressed pride in the appearance of the company's other properties and promised this one would be held to the same standards.

The plant would have two full-time employees, and crush about 60,000-70,000 tons of recycled material annually, Slaughter estimated. A new crushing machine has been purchased by the company. He and Luis said they will make every effort to require trucks coming and going to use Gude Drive instead of N. Horners Lane through the adjacent residential neighborhood.

Residents were most concerned that they, and their civic associations, had not been alerted by the company about the proposed plant. Alexandra Dace Denito, VP of the Lincoln Park Civic Association, said she and the association received no notice of last night's hearing, nor of a previous meeting in March. "I find it disturbing there has been no outreach to the community," resident Susan Clemons said.

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton suggested to the Maryland officials presiding over the hearing that the state add a new requirement that future industrial applicants contact City officials including the City Manager, appropriate department heads, and all residents within a 2-mile radius of a proposed site. She noted that over the decades, the City has "not done a good job protecting this neighborhood. There's more we can do."

One Lincoln Park resident criticized the company for not considering what else is around a site they plan to operate on. She discounted the promised reduction in truck traffic, saying they would still have to contend with trucks cutting through the residential neighborhood to reach the site. Slaughter and Luis both promised to do everything they could to enforce the Gude-only access policy. Newton urged them to not only forbid trucks to use N. Horners, but to stipulate that in their subcontracting contracts, which would help the City enforce the ban.

Another resident said her main concern was seeing or hearing the plant. Slaughter said there is no odor from a crushing plant, only from an asphalt manufacturing plant. Luis explained there is no dust issue, because the liquid asphalt has already bound and encased the solid material in the mixture. She said dust complaints at the company's former Baltimore site were actually caused by an adjacent concrete plant, which a City Councilman mistakenly blamed on them.

Dace Denito said she lives just slightly over 1000' from the proposed plant site, and already suffers from the daily impacts of other industrial businesses nearby. She asked the company to consider that there is an elementary school nearby, as well as a heavily-used community center.

"What is the worst case scenario?" asked Suzan Pitman, President of the East Rockville Civic Association, regarding potential air pollution disasters at the future plant. She gave a fire as an example. Many scientists live in the neighborhood, Pitman said, and they have been warning of potential air pollutants in such a scenario. 

An air quality specialist with M. Luis said that while vapor can be emitted from burning asphalt, scientists currently do not consider such emissions as a cancer-causing agent. She added that the EPA recently delisted asphalt plants from the federal "major sources of air toxins" list.

Since some objections and concerns were raised during the hearing, the state will now review those comments and produce a report responding to them. Parties of record will be notified of the report, and it will also be announced in a local newspaper. If the resident concerns are found to be legitimate in the state's view, the permit will not be issued. If the state finds the concerns without merit, they will issue the permit for the plant, and residents can file a legal challenge to the permit in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

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