Opponents Say Biomass Plant Threatens Town's Water Supply
Opponents of a proposed Candor biomass plant fueled by poultry litter now include Moore County residents concerned about potential pollution in nearby Drowning Creek.
That is the source of drinking water for Southern Pines, which also sells water to the county and Whispering Pines.
Dr. John L. Monroe told the Southern Pines Town Council at its monthly agenda meeting Wednes-day that the plant is a “disaster in the making.”
“Chicken litter contains significant quantities of heavy metals that are toxic, even in small amounts,” said Monroe, who lives in West End. “As a medical doctor, I know that concentrations of toxins in the air and water are harmful. In my opinion, this process of burning chicken litter upstream from our community should not be allowed.”
The plant would generate steam and electricity at the Mountaire Farms feed mill in Candor off N.C. 211 just over the Moore County line, with any excess power being sold to Progress Energy. The 18,000-square-foot facility, which would be constructed within the company’s current 140-acre footprint, would produce less than one megawatt of power.
Drowning Creek lies 1,500 feet from the proposed facility, a $7.5 million investment that would create three jobs and be operated by FLS Energy Inc., of Asheville.
In addition to questioning the safety and future use of the generator, opponents are worried about possible odors, property devaluations and potential air and water pollution.
“There’s no reason to set yourself up for that, particularly when it’s avoidable,” Monroe said.
Monroe and Bill Bruton, who lives adjacent to the feed mill, asked the Southern Pines Town Council to intervene on their behalf because the Candor Board of Commissioners is conducting a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday to consider two proposed amendments to its zoning ordinance.
One amendment would empower the board to conditionally permit the burning of chicken litter to fuel a power plant and enable the operator to sell the electricity to Progress Energy.
The other amendment would not allow chicken litter to fuel power plants but would allow commissioners to conditionally permit private power plants to operate and sell electricity in an Industrial District, if fueled by cleaner or more conventional sources.
Currently, Candor’s zoning ordinance does not allow private electrical power generation for resale. Even if the former amendment is approved Monday, there would still be a conditional use hearing. And the plant could not be built without an air quality permit from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“At a minimum, it would nice to delay Monday’s public hearing so we can gather more information and garner more support,” Monroe said. “Once our water is contaminated, it’s too late.”
The Southern Pines Town Council agreed to draft a statement asking Candor commissioners to postpone the public hearing until October.
“We want to respect the town of Candor,” council member Mike Fields said, “but we need to say that we have a concern.”
Council member Chris Smithson volunteered to attend the Candor public hearing and deliver the message.
“We’re not coming up with new water sources for the town, ever, so this is it,” Smithson said.
According to the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, emissions from poultry litter include nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulates, hydrochloric acid and arsenic.
“Our own studies indicate that poultry manure power plants would emit more pollution than coal-fired power plants now being permitted in North Carolina,” the group noted on an informational flier. “In other words, burning poultry waste would be a step backward.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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