Residents in the Eastern Panhandle continue to protest Denmark-based, stone wool manufacturing facility, Rockwool. For more than a year now, hundreds of residents still rally at commission and town council meetings in Jefferson County and at the Rockwool construction site – in an effort to stop the plant from being built.
Recently, a Shepherdstown resident traveled to Denmark to walk 70 miles from Kalundborg to Copenhagen to protest the facility.
Tracy Danzey is a mother of an 8-year-old and a registered nurse. She’s also the president of the anti-Rockwool group, Resist Rockwool. A few years ago, one of her legs had to be amputated after contracting a rare form of bone cancer, which she said was caused by pollution from heavy industry in her former home of Parkersburg, West Virginia.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting spoke with Danzey via Skype, just before she finished her 11-day walk over the weekend.
"I am walking in the American tradition of marching for justice,” Danzey said in the interview. “My experience of being poisoned by industry is a huge motivator. As a nurse, my focus is often on health and the health of the community around me.”
West Virginia Public Broadcasting reached out to Rockwool for comment. Rockwool spokesperson Michael Zarin emailed a statement stating Rockwool invited Danzey to their headquarters in Denmark. He said the Danish factory uses the same core technology that will be used in Jefferson County.
"It is unfortunate that Tracy Danzey did not accept our invitation to visit the ROCKWOOL factory in northern Denmark or meet with us at our headquarters,” Zarin said via email. “The Danish factory uses the same core technology as will be used in Jefferson County. This would have been a prime opportunity for Ms. Danzey to see first-hand a similar facility in operation.”
Danzey did not accept that invitation, but instead invited Rockwool to visit Jefferson County to address community concerns.
"I came here to speak with the Danish people,” Danzey said via text message to West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “Rockwool has had over a year to reach out and be willing to chat, and they have consistently been unavailable and dishonest to our citizenry and representation. Additionally, though I can speak to the health concerns as a nurse, and the potential violation of the industry from a personal health standpoint, I would not feel comfortable touring a facility and representing my community in this way alone. I am not an industrial specialist and would have to depend on what I was being told. [Rockwool] has been so dishonest with our community that it would only be proper that some of our community's own specialists attend these tours and meetings with me.”
Rockwool in Ranson, Jefferson County is expected to offer 150 new jobs and be completed by mid-2020, according to Rockwool’s North American President Trent Ogilvie.
The facility would feature two, 21-story smokestacks releasing a range of chemicals and will be located just a few miles from four public schools.
Residents are concerned about the potential health and environmental risks to the area. Rockwool states their technology is state of the art and that air quality is a top priority.
“Air quality is one of our top priorities & primary reason for constructing tall stacks in Ranson,” Rockwool said on their Twitter page on Aug. 3, 2018. “Tall stacks improve the dispersion of the steam plume and thus reduce particulate and other matter that might reach people on the ground.”
Since the facility broke ground in June 2018, there have been several pending lawsuits filed from opposition groups, rallies and an overall division within communities in the Eastern Panhandle.