Letter to the Editor

Looking deeper in asphalt issue

Sunday, February 26, 2012

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the recent public meeting concerning Dave O'Mara Contractors setting up an asphalt plant at the former site of the old brick plant on State Road 340.

I attended the meeting and heard the concerns of the citizens and residents of the area in question.

Some concerns, such as pollution and truck traffic were aired, and I understand their worries concern the safety of children and students traveling to the schools.

However, some of the statements focused on clerical errors and address mistakes, making the company wanting to come to Brazil look as if they were incompetent and bad business people.

I work with a company that works in conjunction with Dave O'Mara Contractors. They are a good company with good people who follow the rules and are involved in the communities where they set up. I also work with people who have worked in asphalt plants for more than 30 years.

These are people who are the most at-risk for any illnesses or dangers that would come with working in this industry. They suffer no illnesses or long-term effects of direct contact with the pollution of this industry.

Many of our sites have asphalt plants set up within 100 yards of our main offices. I know of no one who suffers from any long-term effects of working in an asphalt plant.

As for traffic, usually the trucks hauling materials to these plants are loaded and at the plant, between 7-7:30 a.m. This would be before school stats and their load is delivered by 3 p.m. Truck traffic should not be an issue.

As for pollution, asphalt for paving roads consists of 5 percent oil and 95 percent gravel, sand and limestone bound together by cement-like substance derived from crude oil. The ingredients used to make asphalt are mixed under high temperatures and kept heated until asphalt is applied to a surface. Asphalt fumes are generated during the heating of the mixture.

Petroleum hydrocarbons in the crude oil form a gas that condenses into fine particles as it cools, creating a particulate vapor.

Many of the chemicals emitted from an asphalt plant are no different than those being emitted by cars, school buses, fireplaces, woodstoves and other industries.

Studies show that in the process of making hot mix asphalt, a small quantity of pollutants would be produced and investigations in a number of communities throughout the country where asphalt paving plants have been operating have measured various pollutants in ambient (outdoor) air and found that the concentrations of VOCs, PAHS, hydrogen sulfide and particulates are below levels that would represent a public health hazard to residents of those communities.

No studies have linked residential exposure to asphalt fumes with the development of cancer.

The hot mix asphalt industry is stringently regulated by state and federal agencies such as IDEM and the EPA. They must follow guidelines to protect the environment, whether it is the air or land.

An asphalt plant must meet emissions criteria to receive operating permits from these agencies. If the permit criteria are met, emissions would not pose a public health hazard.

Stack testing for emissions and other controls, such as fabric filters and dust collectors are used to collect fugitive dust from the aggregates being used during the asphalt manufacturing process.

I understand the concerns of the residents but disagree with the arguments and the facts that were presented at the meeting against this plant being set up at the proposed location.

Dan O'Mara offered to show any concerned citizens around one of their existing asphalt plants. I think this shows they have nothing to hide and are an organization that operates safely and within the law.

They do not want to set up here to hurt anyone or make people sick.

They have something to offer the community by employing a few people at the plant, not to mention the truck drivers to haul the materials.

Any paving jobs that would go on would cost the city or county less because of transportation cost due to the location of the plant.

Instead of all the negativity focused on stopping them from coming here, we should welcome them as an asset to the community.

Lee Toney,