Supporters and detractors got one last chance to praise or bash a proposed soybean crushing plant earmarked for Conoy Township Tuesday night.
Some 100 people crammed into the Bainbridge Fire Company fire hall for what will be the final public hearing on the plan by the state DEP.
Thirty-one people were each allotted five minutes to speak on the $59 million plant proposed by Perdue AgriBusiness.
Proponents included Elizabethtown farmer James Hershey, whose 600 acres includes corn and soybeans. A member of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, he said having the plant in Lancaster County will be a big help to farmers, who currently must ship their crops out of state, leading to greater cost.
The plant, he said, "is the right fit for our region" and will give local farmers "one more tool to remain competitive and insure success."
Bainbridge Fire Chief David Stoner also supported the plan after having visited a similar Perdue facility in Salisbury, Maryland.
"After talking to Perdue officials and touring the plant, I have the utmost confidence in their plans and their operation," Stoner said.
Another who toured the Maryland plant was Randy Gockley, Lancaster County's Emergency Management Coordinator. He said the new plant will be built according to guidelines established by the National Fire Protection Association.
"Based on my research, I do not find that the proposed facility poses any unusual risks or threats to the community and its responders," Gockley said.
The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry came out in favor of the plant as well.
Pres. Tom Baldrige said Perdue was willing to "learn from the community and be responsive to their needs and concerns."
He said Perdue will meet "the most stringent requirements and environmental controls in process technology," as well as create new jobs and pump millions of dollars into the local economy.
On the other side of the argument, Fred Osman, an environmental consultant hired by Hellam Township, said Perdue misled people on the amount of truck traffic that the plant would bring to Route 441. Perdue's own study, he said, shows there'd be "130,000 tractor trailers a year coming to and from this facility."
June Evans of Wrightsville was one of several people who worried about hexane being pumped into the air at the rate, Perdue concedes, of 208 tons a year. Long term exposure to hexane, she said, effects the central nervous system and causes nerve damage.
Judith Nissley of Nissley Vineyards and Winery hired an environmental firm to look at the plant and cited some their objections. She said emissions from the plant will exceed what Perdue has stated, that there could be explosion hazards and that the environmental rights amendment to state constitution that guarantees people the right to clean air has not been adhered to.
"The burden is on DEP to show that this project complies with the amendment," she said.
That, she added, has not been done.
With the public hearings now ended, people may still submit testimony in writing until April 10. Testimony may be sent to Thomas Hanlon, DEP Air Quality, South-Central Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA, 17110.