Cape Fear Basin ranked in Top 10 as endangered

by Daniel Bowden
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lumina News file photo 

This land on the Cape Fear River is part of the proposed site for the Titan Cement plant. The Southern Environmental Law Center has named the Cape Fear Basin on its list of the top 10 most endangered places in the southeast in 2013 due to the proposed plant. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center, which bills itself as the largest environmental advocacy organization in the Southeast, has named the Cape Fear Basin on its list of the Top 10 most endangered places in the southeast in 2013. The SELC’s list was released last week.

The Cape Fear Basin’s designation comes as a result of Titan America’s proposal to build a cement plant in Castle Hayne, which the SELC stated would destroy 1,000 acres of wetlands, add unsafe levels of mercury to the local water supply and increase air pollution in the area. 

Geoff Gisler, an attorney with the SELC, said the information its claims are based on came from Titan’s most recent project proposal, and the company’s submissions to the North Carolina Division of Air Quality.

In a prepared statement issued Feb. 8, Bob Odom, general manager for Carolinas Cement, a subsidiary of Titan America, called the designation “erroneous and not based on facts.”

Odom said Carolinas Cement will mitigate all of the wetlands it disturbs at a greater ratio than the amount of wetlands that will be impacted by the proposed plant, and that 60 percent of the wetlands slated to be impacted are “managed pine plantations,” which “while technically ‘wetlands,’ have much lower functionality.” He also noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Study had not yet been completed, so “the SELC is making biased assumptions” that “are not based on true science.”

Titan began conducting an environmental impact study with the corps and the North Carolina Division of Water Quality in 2008, but stopped pursuing it shortly afterwards.

At a Feb. 7 meeting of Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, Mike Giles, coastal advocate for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, said he believes Titan is focusing on applying for one permit at a time to divert people’s eyes from the big picture. (See related story page 1.)

Titan received a draft air permit from the state DAQ in September 2009. The SELC issued a challenge to the permit that is to be briefed this spring and is scheduled to go to court on Sept. 30. The ruling will determine whether or not to revoke Titan’s air permit.

Beyond obtaining permits from the state DAQ and DWQ, Titan still has to obtain a series of construction permits before it can begin construction of the proposed cement plant.

The Cape Fear Basin was one of three N.C. sites on the SELC’s list. Two others include the Alligator River National Wildlife refuge in northeastern N.C., which is threatened by a widening of US-64 that would destroy 300 acres of sensitive habitat for the last remaining wild population of red wolves in the United States. The third, in the western Blue Ridge Mountains, Courthouse Creek, is facing a proposed timber sale that threatens to destroy 472 acres of woodlands that currently serve as a popular recreation destination.


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