Titan America has applied for an air quality permit for that proposed and controversial facility in Castle Hayne. That application is being reviewed by the North Carolina Division of Air Quality. WWAY spoke with a local doctor who has studied the cement plant's application. She said she has major concerns. Dr. Catherine Sotir has been practicing family medicine for more than 10 years. "I'm not involved in any of the organizations for or against the cement plant coming, but my concern is for health and public safety," Sotir said. Sotir based her research on Titan America's application for an air quality permit posted on the Division of Air Quality's website. "Their number was 8,000 tons of air pollutants," Sotir said. She said with any increase in air pollution, comes an increase in heart disease and asthma. "People with asthma already have airways that we say are a little bit twitchy, and things can make their airways close down, and air pollutants are one of the things that can do that," Sotir said. "Then obviously the winds carry the pollutants around so I expect people in Wilmington and Pender County are going to be to be affected as well." Tom Mather of the state's Division of Air Quality said, "8,000 tons of air pollution sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. This would be a major air emissions source, however you cannot just look at the raw number." Mather said the plant will be required to have technology to filter air pollutants. "The controls in the permit would require that the concentrations at any given time in the surrounding air would be considered at levels that would be protective of human health," Mathers said. Sotir is also concerned about mercury from the plant that could get into the air or in ground water. "It is expected that there will be more than 200 pounds per year of mercury from this plant," Sotir said. "If you have too much mercury in your body it goes to the brain and the spinal chord causes tremors, not being able to walk straight, psychiatric disturbances." Mather said the extensive application will be thoroughly reviewed, and the company will be required to make changes if the state finds the emission levels harmful. He said the draft permit will not be complete until mid-autumn, and once that is written, there will be a public hearing for people to give suggestions, improvements or voice their concerns about the draft.
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