Environment
6:00 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Outcry Over Proposed Sulfur Plant in Morehead City

A sulfur-melting plant proposed near Morehead City has provoked a public outcry. Tom Pasztor, Senior Director of Corporate and Government Relations for the Potash Corporation says they need the plant in order to produce fertilizers, agricultural feed and industrial products. The Potash Corporation is the parent company of PCS Phosphates. PCS already uses sulfur to produce fertilizers and agricultural feeds at a facility in Aurora, North Carolina. The plant would allow them to melt dry sulfur that arrives at the port. Many residents are angry that they're just recently learning about the $95 million facility. One of them is Jet Matthews. He's an adjacent property owner to the proposed site and owner of Morehead City Yacht Basin. He says he first received notice about the plant on the 4th of July.

Jet Matthews: "I am outraged. I am like 'How in the world? How could this happen?' I never even saw or heard about it. And I realized as I thumbed through the paperwork, they already had their air quality permit, they had most of the major permits for this thing. I'm like 'How in the world could you get all this without there being public notification? This would be a major project.'"
PCS spokeswoman Michelle Vaught says the plant is considered a minor source of pollution according to federal regulations so no public hearing was needed. She says the company made all required notifications to the appropriate parties. Vaught says a public hearing is being discussed and could happen in the next few days.

Residents are concerned about the environment and the impact to the region's tourism. The facility would include two 150-foot smokestacks and employ about 18 people. Matthews says his marina is about 100 feet from the proposed site.

Matthews: "The marshes that are straight across from us of the haystacks where everybody fishes, southwest wind blows in there all the time. This type of thing doesn't belong downtown in a major metropolitan area midway between Beaufort and Morehead less than 75 yards off of Highway 70. Coming to the crystal coast and driving from Morehead to Beaufort, you don't want to be looking at two 150-foot stacks belching out some kind of steam and particulate. That's not what we're about here. We're about horses on the beaches and we're about dolphins swimming around. We're about people boating here. Not heavy commercial melting facilities."
Smell is also a concern. Sulfur smell is often described as reminiscent to "rotten eggs." Vaught says the plant would be outfitted with scrubbers so there won't be any sulfuric odor emitted. But many aren't satisfied. Morehead and Beaufort's City Councils have come out in opposition to the plant, as well as the Carteret County Commission and Chamber of Commerce.

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