Wow, seems like just yesterday– Will Rockwill open?

By Andrea Gaines

Indeed. It does seem like just yesterday.

Despite years of controversy, tons of opposition, legal challenges, and lots of questions, the Rockwool insulation factory in nearby Jefferson County, West Virginia may finally be slated to open.

The facility would be located in the Town of Ranson, West Virginia, less than 30 miles from the state’s border with Loudoun County. The plant prompted opposition here in Loudoun since it was unclear if tall-stacks manufacturing, which can spread emissions many, many miles, might be used. Schools near the plant site objected, too.

The Jefferson County Foundation, which has, in many ways, functioned as the seat of opposition to the project, is still fighting on. The group’s website describes itself this way: JCF is “a 501(C)3 non-profit organization [that] supports and promotes effective and accountable government, sustainable development, and the protection of health, heritage, and the environment in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.” As part of its mission, JCF educates the public and intervenes in issues related to mountain natural gas exploration, residential water testing, and how development impacts clean water, among other topics.

JCF has sought a “residential well water testing program in advance of Rockwool …” What JCF is looking for is a baseline of sorts. What does your water look like now and what will your water look like if Rockwool comes here, and what will it look like when or if Rockwell leaves? Water testing reveals things such as the presence of ammonia, metals, formaldehyde, coliform, E. coli, Nitrate-N, as well as pesticides and herbicides. The foundation is also exploring what it calls “the road to Rockwool” – claiming that even basic construction features such as the roads that will service the facility “had violations.”

The Rockwool factory is quite the industrial undertaking. The company runs 45 factories in 39 countries. It is the world’s largest “stone wool manufacturer”. The manufacturing of the company’s Ranson insulation product will be done with natural gas, helping to reduce harmful emissions.

Two local politicians who opposed the Rockwool plant went down in defeat in the last several years: County Commissioner Ralph Lorenzetti and Del. Sammi Brown. But, another incumbent, Del. Paul Espinosa, who supported Rockwool, won re-election. Espinosa was a Rockwool PR manager at the time. Analysts see this possible scenario playing out: opposition will continue, but Rockwool will open just the same.

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