BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A small but passionate group of north Birmingham residents filled the Jefferson County Health Department Thursday to comment on the renewal of an air pollution permit for The Drummond Company’s ABC Coke plant.
The plant is located just north of Birmingham and creates coke by heating coal to drive off volatile organic compounds. The result is a fuel used in steel-making. They also produce light oil and tar used for asphalt.
It’s standard operating procedure for a company like this to go through a license renewal every four years, but this is the first time the plant has applied for a renewal since a Drummond executive was found guilty in a federal corruption trial. Some residents blame the plant for health problems.
“I heard a lot of emotions today, I feel the pain of the community,” said Webster Thomas, chairman for the economic development board for the north Birmingham framework. “I feel like today, they needed to get this off their chest, they needed to put a face with the complaints they have been sending in writing.”
The Jefferson County Health Department held public meetings at 10 a.m. Thursday morning and again at 7 p.m. Thursday night wrapping up a 90 day public comment session.
“We will compile all the public comments that we’ve gotten over this period and our staff will respond to each public comment, the person that gave them. That packet will go over to EPA which will then review this permit,” said Jefferson County Environmental Health Director Jonathan Stanton.
Even though the public comment session is ending, the health department says the public can contact them at any point with concerns or complaints about any company.
“What we heard was concerns from community regarding that facility and the facility permit. What We’ve encouraged citizens to do is to be involved as well and file complaints during the year as well,” says Stanton.
The Environmental Protection Agency will review the packet from the health department and then make a recommendation for the Title V permit. The EPA process could take as long as six months.