Residents of Alexandria and officials in Granville and surrounding townships are concerned about two proposed asphalt manufacturing plants – both sites along Raccoon Creek, which feeds the drinking water supply for both villages.
The plants are proposed for township land just outside Alexandria on its east and west sides. St. Albans Township Zoning Inspector Tom Frederick wrote in a post on the township website that township trustees and staff “are aware of two asphalt plants looking to locate within the township.”
That is of “grave concern” to Alexandria and Granville residents, and residents of St. Albans and Granville townships, said Granville Mayor Melissa Hartfield, because of expected air pollution and possible effects on the water supply for the two villages.
“Seating such operations so close to the Alexandria residential center, adjacent to Raccoon Creek, within five miles of three other municipalities, poses wide-reaching harm,” Hartfield wrote in a letter to Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. “In Granville, we are particularly concerned of the potential for run-off pollution into Raccoon Creek and the downstream impacts to our municipal water well field adjacent to this major tributary. There simply has to be a better location within the county that can safely accommodate such intense industrial operations without harming our environment.”
Alexandria contracts with Granville for water service. Newark is downstream from Granville.
Hartfield’s letter was in reaction to requests for EPA permits that would be needed for an asphalt plant to be built just east of Rt. 37 at 1434 Tharp Road, on land owned by James Geiger on the east side of Alexandria, where Shelly Materials has a facility. Frederick says a concrete mixing plant also is proposed for that property.
The other potential location for an asphalt plant, according to Frederick’s post, is 2915 Johnstown Alexandria Road on Martin Trucking property, owned by Donald and Denise Martin, on the west side of Alexandria, according to the Licking County Auditor’s website.
The EPA does not have a request for permits for a plant at that location, but EPA Media Relations Manager James Lee said the agency has a request from Mar-Zane Materials, a Shelly & Sands affiliate, to move a portable asphalt plant to the Martin Trucking property.
A Martin Trucking representative, who would not give her name when contacted by phone on Thursday, said she would not discuss the proposed asphalt plant or community concerns about it.
Referring to both the close proximity to Raccoon Creek and to Alexandria residents, Hartfield told The Reporting Project, “You couldn’t pick a worse place to site these.”
Hartfield noted in her letter to the EPA that asphalt manufacturing operations, which mix aggregates with heated petroleum products, “are known polluters. These plants release chemicals to the air and leach into the ground during production, including many cancer-causing toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, and cadmium. Other toxic chemicals are released as the materials are loaded into trucks and hauled from the plant site, including volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and very fine condensed particulates.”
“You can only poison your water supply one time,” Hartfield said in an interview, describing the long-term implications of water pollution and saying that can’t be allowed to happen.
Ben Zanks, who lives next to Martin Trucking, said he has long expressed concerns to the EPA about air pollution in dust from the Martin Trucking site, and that someone from the EPA called him recently to tell him that he should sell his house “because an asphalt plant is being proposed for that site.”
“This is literally 20 yards from my child’s bedroom window,” Zanks said.
He said he is concerned not only for the health and safety of his family, but also the future of Alexandria, where he said residential development could be stifled if the village of about 500 residents is bookended by asphalt plants.
“Driving into town from either direction and seeing and smelling the asphalt plants won’t appeal to anyone,” said Zanks. “I will be fighting this until the end.”
Other residents of the Alexandria community also are concerned. Some have posted flyers to alert residents to the concerns and invite them to attend township meetings to discuss them. The next St. Albans Township Trustees meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday in the firehouse at 25 E. Main St. in Alexandria.
Carianne Meng, a homeowner on West Main Street, said, “Our village is in no way against progress, however, asphalt manufacturing threatens this progress.”
Hartfield and other local officials say it’s clear to them that the arrival of Intel’s $20 billion computer-chip manufacturing facility and related development in western Licking County – five miles west of Alexandria – is fueling a significant demand for construction materials.
The officials are not against that development, or the desire by supply companies to locate their plants as close as possible to the construction sites to reduce trucking costs, but sites along an important waterway next to residential areas are not appropriate, Hartfield said.
The EPA is taking public comment on two permits requested by Scioto Materials, a Shelly affiliate, by mail at: Hearing Clerk, Ohio EPA, 50 W. Town St., P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio, 43216; by phone, 614-644-3037; or by email, HClerk@epa.ohio.gov. The permit requests are filed under numbers P0133756 and A0073843.
If the EPA grants permits, Frederick said the final decision on whether asphalt plants can operate in the township will be up to the St. Albans Township Board of Zoning Appeals, which has the authority to grant a conditional use permit. If the Board of Zoning Appeals does not approve the proposal, the Shelly company can appeal to the Licking County Common Pleas Court.
The zoning boards for the township include people associated with the materials sites. Sitting on the Zoning Commission is Denise Martin, president of Martin Trucking and an owner of the land proposed by Mar-Zane for an asphalt plant. A seat on the Board of Zoning Appeals belongs to Colleen Geiger. She and Jim Geiger raise beef cattle on land he owns on Tharp Road that includes the Shelly site, according to their Facebook page.
Jack Wolf writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation.