Branford resident explains opposition to Suwanee cement plant plan
Lloyd Baldwin
May/June 1999

As a long-time resident of Branford, I feel compelled to respond to the Talking Back column by Chuck Yagel which ran in the Gainesville Sun on April 19. Mr. Yagel is involved in the design of the cement plan proposed to be constructed between Branford and the Ichetucknee River. He made several misleading statements, particularly one concerning truck traffic. He stated that a large percentage of the materials going into and out of the plant will be shipped by rail, and that any increase in truck traffic should hardly be noticeable. He neglected to say that the nearest rail spur is in Live Oak, over 25 miles from the plant. Materials will be hauled between the rail spur and the plant by truck.

According to the traffic study filed with the permit application, there will be 480 truck trips per day. The engineers clearly stated at a recent public hearing that the north-south truck route will be the nearest US highway, which is US 129. That highway is the main road through both Branford and downtown Live Oak. The engineers also clearly stated that several hundred heavy trucks per day will rumble through both towns on US 129. I can assure Mr. Yagel that the increase in truck traffic will be noticed by the residents of Branford and Live Oak, and Suwannee Countians who live along US 129, which is mostly a two-lane, rural highway. Since the main loading time for the trucks will be between five and seven in the morning, a large proportion of the truck traffic will be on the road when school buses are stopping to pick up children.

My elderly mother has a chronic lung condition that has sent her to the hospital three times in the last year with pneumonia. Her house is next to US 129. She does not need to breathe all those diesel fumes, nor does she need to dodge heavy trucks on her way to the post office and the grocery store.

I understand that DEP is only concerning itself with plant emissions and that emissions from the trucks are not a factor in any of the permits required for the plant. Mr. Yagel stated that the plant "won't smoke, it won't smell, and it won't pollute the environment." If that be so, why does the plant need 300 foot smokestacks to carry off exhaust gasses and particulates? He also seems to indicate that, since mercury is not a part of the cement to be made at the plant, it will not be emitted. The mercury does not come from the raw materials. It comes from the fuel used to make the cement. The Suwannee River is already under a fishing advisory due to mercury from fossil fuels and hazardous waste incineration. This cement plant will burn coal--a fossil fuel--and old tires, which are considered to be hazardous waste.

Speaking of money, the main justifications for the plant seem to be the tax revenue and the 80 jobs it will bring. How much of the tax revenue will be offset by declining property values near the plant? And how many of those jobs will go to non-locals like Mr. Yagel, who is from Georgia? Who is going to pick up the tab for repairing the road when it is turned into a washboard by all those trucks?

While Suwannee County certainly deserves to participate in the economic benefits that come from growth in Florida, it would be far more beneficial in the long run to bring in clean industry instead of smokestack plants which will impact the rural nature of the area and downgrade the quality of life that we now enjoy.

Lloyd Baldwin, P.O. Box 487
Branford, FL 32008

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