The Aisne local authority in France has given the green light for the establishment of a Rockwool mineral wool production plant near Soissons, despite the negative opinion of a public inquiry.
According to French building publication, Batirama, the Prefect issued Rockwool, a manufacturer of mineral wool insulation, with a permit to operate in a Concerted Development Zone (ZAC) in the village of Courmelles. The Danish company, which already operates a factory in Puy-de-Dôme, has long been considering setting up near Soissons, but the project had already been postponed in 2008 due to the subprime crisis.
However, the project had received an unfavorable opinion from the investigating commissioner. The public inquiry concluded that the disadvantages of this project, which would generate 130 direct jobs, would outweigh its advantages. It pointed out, among other things, the impossibility of measuring the real impact on the landscape of the site, which will include a 47 m high chimney, and the uncertainties concerning its effects on the health of local residents.
It also noted that the site’s energy consumption would represent “1.8 times that of all the industries in the Soissons area”. The Courmelles municipal council also voted unanimously against the project.
“I am a farmer, I have handled glyphosate for years, now banned for individuals and soon for farmers. I put forward the precautionary principle”, the mayor, Arnaud Svrcek. “The prefect saw the employment component,” said an unnamed elected official, as reported in Batirama. Opponents of the project have launched petitions, while 29 doctors have warned of the release of toxic substances into the atmosphere (fine particles, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, etc.), which the winds will mainly direct towards Soissons.
“We suspected that the prefect would pass in force despite the opposition,” assured Thomas Wozniak, of the Stop Rockwool association, indicating that several associations intended to challenge this decision before the administrative court. While the prefecture puts forward “the abandonment of the coke oven in favor of an innovative technology of electric oven much less polluting (70% less CO2 emissions)”, Mr. Wozniak denounced what he called a “greenwashing” at the Rockwool with “25 year old” technology.
The concerns regarding pollution from plants like that planned in Soissons add to more general concerns about the health of those who handle the finished mineral wool insulation product, whether in their professional construction work or during home DIY projects installing the material as insulation.