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Hellam Twp. citizens group weighs appealing Perdue plant air plan
Perdue was given the green light by Pennsylvania's environment protection arm to build a soybean-crushing facility in neighboring Lancaster County.
The state Department of Environmental Protection approved an air plan for Perdue AgriBusiness' proposed plant in Conoy Township Thursday, all but ending a nearly five-year battle to built the plant.
Citizens Against Perdue Pollution, which was created last year and whose members include Hellam Township residents, is in the midst of deciding whether to appeal the plan.
"We're weighing our options," said Lynn Mackley, a Hellam Township resident and a member of the group. She noted if an appeal is filed, the small grassroots group would be up against a large corporation that has relatively endless legal resources.
A group of Hellam Township residents has long argued hexane, a hazardous air pollutant that would be used in and then emitted from the plant, will drift over the Susquehanna River and adversely impact their lives. They urged DEP to require Perdue to install equipment to reduce the amount of hexane released.
But DEP opted not to require the equipment in its plan approval, saying the level of hexane expected to be emitted from the plant isn't expected to raise health concerns.
An appeal can be filed up to 30 days after the plan was approved.
Limits: Hexane emissions are limited to a maximum of 208 tons per year, making the Perdue facility subject to the lowest achievable emission rate, according to a DEP news release.
"It's one of the most stringent limits on this type of plant," said Julie DeYoung, spokeswoman for Perdue.
But Perdue will have to install enhanced leak detection devices as well as monitoring devices at the four emissions points at the plant, John Repetz, a DEP spokesman, said. Data from the devices will be reported to DEP.
"If there is a pattern (of higher than allowed emissions) developing, we'll take a look and see," Repetz said.
Warren Evans, a retired cancer researcher whose Hellam Township home is 10 miles from the proposed plant, had hoped DEP would require the pollution control device.
"This is going to have a negative impact on our air quality," he said, adding he's not against the plant but has serious concerns about the level of hexane that will be released.
The plant will use commercial hexane solvent to extract oil from soybeans. It will be required to operate with a solvent-to-loss ratio of 0.125 gallons per ton, which is 24 percent below the level proposed by Perdue in its original application, DEP said.
DEP held two public hearings that produced nearly five hours of testimony and 256 pages of written comments in the lead up to granting the plan approval.
Construction: With DEP approval granted, Perdue will now turn its sights on finalizing the purchase of the tract of land from the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority and constructing the plant.
The sale was contingent upon DEP air plan approval. Construction is expected to fully kick off in June, and the $60 million plant is expected to be operating in September 2017.
The plant will employee 35 people and is expected to create 500 additional jobs in crop production and transportation, DeYoung said.
DEP also issued to Perdue on Thursday a storage tank installation permit, which allows for two above-ground storage tanks at the proposed site.