When ‘anti-Rockwool’ morphs into ‘anti-ratepayers’

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Protesters since summer have insisted Rockwool in Ranson will ruin life here, but the Denmark-based company is operating safely in the United States, Canada and dozens of other communities around the world.

We urge Charles Town leaders and Jefferson County residents in positions of power to think carefully about the decisions ahead on sewer and water service to the site where Rockwool plans to build its second U.S. factory.

Some members of the Charles Town City Council clearly don’t want Rockwool here, but a decision to reject a bond to finance the construction of a sewer line to the plant would not hurt Rockwool. It would hurt households in our community for years to come because the sewer service will still be provided, just with no zero-interest financing from the state of West Virginia.

A “no” vote from city officials would no doubt thrill those in the ToxicRockwool movement, but what kind of leader would choose to sock ratepayers, including low-income households, with higher bills for decades just to score a few cheap political points today?

Officials with the Charles Town Utility Board could not be more clear: CTUB cannot legally deny service to Rockwool.

Just this week, Lee Snyder – the president of Kearneysville’s Jefferson Utilties Inc. – responded to a series of questions asked by Council Mike Brittingham and others who expressed extreme confusion and frustration about the myriad details of the planned extension of water service to onetime Jefferson Orchards site.

Question 1

What volume of water (measured in gallons per day) are you proposing to provide for the Rockwool-Ranson facility to meet its immediate demand and how does that volume change over time?

Lee Snyder’s answer:

In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding, Jefferson Utilities expects to provide approximately 160,000 gallons of water per day to Rockwool, once the plant is in full operation. We do not know with any degree of certainty what future demands may be.

Question 2

Of the public documents JUI has recently developed related to this project, which document most accurately describes the company’s plan and agreements to provide new water service in the Jefferson Orchards area of the county?  Provide a copy of the document(s).

Lee Snyder’s answer:

The Memorandum of Understanding and the User Agreement both describe what has been agreed upon. Copies of both are attached. They are both public record. Moreover, as a public utility regulated by the PSC, JUI is obligated to provide water service to all new customers within its service territory that apply for service. Indeed, the PSC’s Water Rule 5.5.a (W. Va. Code R. § 150-7-5.5.a), states that “[a] water utility, whether publicly or privately owned, is under a public service obligation to extend its mains, and its plant and facilities to serve new customers within its service area who may apply for service.”

Question 3

In a document filed with the WV Public Service Commission (dated June 26, 2018),  the company indicated the Rockwool-Ranson facility may need up to 500,000 gallons of water per day. The company has indicated it will only need about 320,000 gallons per day at a maximum production. The additional 180,000 gallons per day is 56.25 percent higher than the company’s stated need. Please explain the need for this much additional water, identify any expected new customers that would benefit from the additional water capacity, and who is paying to construct the additional capacity.

Lee Snyder’s answer:

First, we believe the 500,000 gpd volume was simply a conservative estimate.  However, providing high quality water service to any and all customers who may need it is the reason we operate. Our mission is: “To improve lives by providing and improving public water service.” We will be happy to supply 500,000 gpd if that demand materializes. Unfortunately, the vile unfounded opposition to the Rockwool facility will likely damage the potential of other businesses to locate in Jefferson County or the cities of Ranson and Charles Town for many years to come.

Question 4

In the same document filed with the Public Service Commission, the scope of work included the construction of a 16” water line with fittings, valves and accessories. At this size, is the pipe limited to 500,000 gallons per day or can it accommodate additional flow? If so, what is the maximum amount of water that can flow through a line of this size per day?

Lee Snyder’s answer:

There is no simple answer to this question. We at Jefferson Utilities chose to plan for the installation of 16” transmission lines many years ago to assure the adequacy of our lines to serve a growing county. The 16” lines can easily carry in excess of 500,000 gallons per day to the Jefferson Orchard Business Park.  Large lines are necessary to allow the pumping of water from water treatment plants and booster stations to the customers and to refill storage tanks.  

Larger lines allow water to be moved more economically and with lower pressure variations caused by the friction head developed in the transmission mains.

When we design and install water lines, we realistically expect those lines to be in service for over 100 years. Accordingly, our planning horizon needs to be well past what can be predicted with accuracy. With the growth that has occurred in Berkeley County, we have seen their need, within a few decades of installation, to relay water lines through developed neighborhoods. Our goal is to provide long-lasting pipe lines of such size as we feel are adequate and most prudent.

Question 5

The JCDA and JUI Memorandum of Understanding limits Rockwool’s ability to initially access only potable water provided by JUI. The company had indicated they plan to recapture and use stormwater to offset some of its water needs. Is the company’s plan to reuse stormwater a direct violation of the MOU? If so, what are JUI’s plans to enforce this provision of the agreement?

Lee Snyder's answer

JUI does not feel that Rockwool’s use of raw water collected on their own property is a violation of the MOU. Moreover, JUI is not aware of any West Virginia law or regulation that restricts an individual’s or entity’s ability to capture stormwater and reuse it.

Lee Snyder – no relation to any of the Snyders working here at the Spirit, by the way – has provided ample, easy to understand answers to Brittingham and others who present themselves as so completely perplexed on the subject. The truth is, the matter here is more clear than they want to see. Rockwool followed the rules in coming to Jefferson County, the opposition wasn’t paying attention until after the project’s groundbreaking and now seeks to find some way, any way, to stop a company with a long tradition of being a positive community partner.

We urge members of City Council, Mayor Scott Rogers and those on the Jefferson County Development Authority now and those appointed in the days to come to responsibly investigate the claims made by Jefferson County Vision and others fighting Rockwool and begin to see the hysteria for what it is.

Citizens paying for water and sewer in the county shouldn’t endure higher bills for years to come just because so many in the county are in an uproar over a company that’s operating safely in numerous communities around the globe.

There are infrastructure deals on the table, and we should say yes to them ASAP.


(2) comments


Please define your term safely when you post things . I can refer you to a number on Pharmaceutical corporations who operate safely but have destroyed peoples lives with products. Your assumption is that if it is legal and within the guidelines its safe. My father worked for DuPont. He can rattle off the names of folks that he worked with that corporation (he left early in his career) that all have died from various cancers in by their exposure of what was deemed safe in its exposure. You have no idea of the "safety" of compounds unless it has been proven to be safe. There have been no long term studies no studies in developing children no studies proving the safety of a product. We have a government that takes great steps in proving the safety and the efficacy of compounds that are permitted in humans. Your statements regarding Rockwell Safety is unfounded and unscientific. You have to prove it. The molecular nature of the carcinogens and exposure will have a direct impact to respiratory ailments. So a compound may prove not to kill you but make your life miserable. No doctor or pediatrician would recommend exposures listed for developing humans because there has been no peer reviewed studies proving safe exposures. Rockwell is not operating safely throughout the world. The World Health Organization recommends no exposures of their products within 2 miles.


Panhandler, your comments are little more than fear mongering, the very thing you are critical of the SOJ of reporting is the same as what your doing. Dupont is a known chemical manufacturer, Rockwool makes insulation. Your reference to pharmaceutical companies who operate safely yet give people drugs that are knowopioids, again not insulation but DRUGS. I had a great conversation with a close friend with direct knowledge of the WVEPA and if Rockwool were dangerous they would not be here. They are an international company whose been around for decades and if it were a disastrous company we would have herd it. The article is a great example of why the business ramifications of a mob mentality are way worse than anything Rockwool is gonna do. I am 40 and been here my he life, I assure you the traffic, trash, and Liberal diarrhea coming over that mountain is WAY more of a pollutant than this company will be.

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