Let's Look at the Facts
Asphalt plants mix gravel and sand with crude oil derivatives to make the asphalt used to pave roads, highways, and parking lots across the country. These plants release millions of pounds of chemicals to the air during production each year, including many cancer-causing toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, and cadmium. Other toxic chemicals are released into the air as the asphalt is loaded into trucks and hauled from the plant site, including volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and very fine condensed particulates. (EPA)
Asphalt Fumes are Known Toxins. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states "Asphalt processing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxins may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and skin irritation." [EPA] According to one health agency, asphalt fumes contain substances known to cause cancer, can cause coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath, severe irritation of the skin, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. [NJDHSS] Animal studies show PAHs affect reproduction, cause birth defects and are harmful to the immune system. [NJDHSS] The US Department of Health and Human Services has determined that PAHs may be carcinogenic to humans. [DHHS]
Flawed Tests Underestimate Health Risks. In addition to smokestack emissions, large amounts of harmful "fugitive emissions" are released as the asphalt is moved around in trucks and conveyor belts, and is stored in stockpiles. A small asphalt plant producing 100 thousand tons of asphalt a year may release up to 50 tons of toxic fugitive emissions into the air. [Dr. R. Nadkarni] Stagnant air and local weather patterns often increase the level of exposure to local communities. In fact, most asphalt plants are not even tested for toxic emissions. The amounts of these pollutants that are released from a facility are estimated by computers and mathematical formulas rather than by actual stack testing, estimates that experts agree do not accurately predict the amount of toxic fugitive emissions released and the risks they pose.
Even if an asphalt plant meets all air pollution standards, people living nearby are still exposed to cancer-causing substances that can cause long-term damage. These standards are based on the principle of "acceptable risk," and assume each state will enforce the standards, the plants will operate perfectly, and the owners can be trusted to operate on an honor system where they are expected to follow all the laws and regulations that apply to their facility without any government oversight. In the majority of cases, it is unknown whether the "theoretical" air emissions predicted by computer models and used by plant owners accurately reflect air emissions from a plant's daily operations. We must put safety first and shut down or overhaul the current system that fails to protect communities from the daily health hazards of asphalt plant pollution.
Anything harmful to the human body and our health is totally unacceptable and should be banned. To heck with protecting the population as long as we can make a buck has become the motto of today's officials. This plant offers no benefits to our town. It creates few jobs, pollutes the air we breathe, could pose a great threat to our health. The issues it could cause will be far more expensive than the few tax dollars it will add to the town budget.
This is just another example of having the wrong people making decisions that affect the lives, properties and businesses of many citizens all under the guise of promoting growth in town. We should all write a letter of protest to the paper and in it speak about our concerns for the health and welfare of this beautiful tourist town that seems to be thriving just fine without an asphalt plant. Why leave this up to just The Bethel Citizen and Sun Journal to fight our battles for us, haven't they provided us the facts to fight our own battles and given us a clear picture of what's really going on in our town. All of us need to get involved in spreading the word and convincing these board members we're not going to take this lying down as they expect. It is time to start standing up for ourselves and take responsibility for what has been happening in Bethel because of our lack of participation and caring about the future of our town. Do we want this to continue like this or are we as a town going to band together and fight for our rights to enjoy our properties, businesses and recreational areas of our town without having to put up with polluting plants, offensive odors and noise and other detrimental conditions brought on by a rush to approve everything based on tax dollars? I pity the homeowners, businesses, recreation areas like Angevine Pond, hiking, biking on North Road and Androscroggin River use in that area, they are going to be subjected to all these chemicals as well as odors and their property along with their health will suffer dearly. Advice to all who will be affected by this plant is to show up and loudly voice your concerns, let the Planning Board know this is not good for our town, our health and our children's health and we won't have it here. The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the Bethel Town Office meeting room.