The Virginia Air Pollution Control Authority has declared emissions from a fiberglass insulation plant in Woodbridge to be within limits allowed by the authority. The plant's emissions have been the subject of complaints from nearby residents.
According to pollution authority director John Dougherty, an analysis of a test conducted in July by an independent testing company in Roanoke showed that particulate emissions total 2.01 pounds an hour. The allowable emission limit set by the state is 12.1 pounds an hour, Dougherty said.
The plant, United Fiberglass Corporation, is operating at only 46 percent of its capacity. At less than half its operation capacity, the plant would be allowed to emit as much as five pounds of particles an hour from its twin stacks, according to Dougherty. The plant will be required to undergo further testing when it begins operating at full capacity.
The tests were conducted by Environmental Testing Services on July 25 and 26. Dougherty said he will send the results and the analysis made by his office to the state's main air pollution control facility in Richmond with a recommendation that they be accepted as properly conducted and accurate.
United Fiberglass President Pete Norton said, "We expected good results. We knew we had been operating within the legal limits set by the state and in accordance with all regulations. This is no real surprise."
Although the state's standards on emissions are 22 percent more stringent than those set by the Environmental Protection Agency, pollution control authority assistant director Lou Bauman said he does not expect the test results will do anything to quiet the complaints of residents about odors and possible health hazards. "People remember Love Canal and they're scared," he said.
Marshall Deppe, organizer of the community committee that is studying the issue, said his fears and those of the nearly 2,000 members of the Featherstone Shores community in Woodbridge will not be soothed by the report. Some residents have complained of respiratory ailments and skin rashes since the plant's furnaces fired up in January.
"These tests do not address particulate size, nor do they speak to the condensables emitted such as phenol-formaldehyde resins that the fiberglass industry uses as binders," he said.
According to Bauman, there are no EPA standards for phenol-formaldehyde emissions in fiberglass manufacture and no federal requirement to test for it. There is also no evidence those resins are being released by the fiberglass process at the Woodbridge plant, he said. "I'm sure this won't calm the community's fears. If anybody has any ideas on how to handle this, I wish they'd let me know," Bauman said.
The plant is 200 yards from Potomac View Elementary School. School Board Chairman Gerard Cleary, concerned about the health of the 800 elementary students, said he wrote Dougherty but is "not happy" with the answer he got.
"What Dougherty's letter said was, the Environmental Protection Agency has not declared fiberglass emissions to be hazardous and there are no federal or state rules that apply to particulate size," Cleary said. "But I live in that neighborhood and I can tell you that those kids are scared. They not only go to school in Woodbridge, they live there too. They can't get away from that stuff. What we have to do is find some way to prove that fiberglass emissions are hazardous to health and then I'm sure the supervisors will close the plant."
Bauman said the EPA requires that all plants that emit particles into the air must be tested for emission amounts. "Fiberglass has not been declared hazardous material," he said. "We just to have to set limits on the amount of any kind of crud plants throw into the air."
According to an EPA spokesman, standards regulating particle size are still in the talking stage.
The land on which the plant sits was zoned for heavy industrial use in 1962, according to county planning director Roger Snyder. The surrounding property was zoned residential and homes were built there during the late 1960s, he said. It wasn't until plant construction actually began in 1978 that residents became concerned, Snyder said. When some Woodbridge citizens began registering complaints, the zoning ordinance was amended to require a special use permit for industrial facilities operating near residential areas. "Of course it was too late to help the Woodbridge situation," Snyder said, "but we learn by doing."
Board chairman Kathleen Seefeldt said she is still "not comfortable" with the analysis made by the air pollution authority. "The board will have to ask the county attorney what our legal rights are regarding setting odor and emission standards ourselves and go from there."
On hearing the test results, Woodbridge Supervisor Donald Kidwell said, "If the plant is within the allowable emissions limits, then the standards are wrong." Kidwell said he has written to Gov. Charles Robb and has requested the governor's help in answering the community's questions about fiberglass emission standards.
The Featherstone Shore Civic Association has written to Del. David Brickley and Rep. Stan Parris asking their support and cooperation, Deppe said. Parris aide Syd Courson said that in response to community concerns, Parris wrote to regional EPA director Thomas Eichler. "Eichler told us that the EPA is prepared to take enforcement action if the state decides to do it first, as it is their primary responsibility," Courson said. Courson added that Parris is supportive of community efforts to solve the problem.
Brickley said he was dissatisfied with Eichler's reply to his inquiries. "It's doubtful that any state has the know-how to deal with this problem," he said. "There are only three fiberglass plants in the country. That's why my tax dollars are paying EPA."
Brickley expressed concern that studies 10 years from now could show that particulate size is a health hazard. "The smaller the particles, the more likely they can be inhaled," he said. "There should be some standard for size."
The testing company attempted to test particulate size but because the tests were conducted with fiberglass filters, they were inconclusive, Bauman said. "We may try it again with cellulose filters, but we aren't sure whether cellulose can withstand the furnace temperatures."