County paves way for asphalt plant

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, June 3, 2009

BRANCHVILLE—The Southampton County Board of Supervisors has approved a conditional-use permit for the operation of an asphalt storage and distribution facility near Branchville.

Wood Beasley, of Greenwood Railroad Storage Terminal LLC, said J.T. Russell & Sons Inc. of Albemarle, N.C., would lease his 5-acre site on Moore Lane to operate the asphalt facility.

“We hope this will have an input into your economy,” JTR spokesman Paul Meyers said during last Tuesday’s board meeting. “We’re right in the heart of it. The transportation costs alone is a big savings for the price of asphalt.”

The property is currently being used for the storage of fertilizer and liquified petroleum gas. Those two businesses will continue to operate.

Meyers said JTR plans to spend $2.2 million for the facility over the next 18 to 36 months. He added that the company has already secured pricing for five storage tanks and piping for the plant.

“This is a big expansion for J.T. Russell,” Meyers said. “We have things ready we can put on the ground immediately.”

Under the proposal, bulk asphalt material would be transported by rail to the site using an existing spur that connects to the CSX Railroad and stored in holding tanks until distribution onto trucks.

The semi-solid asphalt material would be heated to about 200 degrees and liquified before transport in and out of the holding tanks.

“Asphalt is not a dangerous (material),” Meyers told the board. “It has to be heated to get it into liquid form. The flashpoint with asphalt is up around 600 degrees. I just really don’t know how you would ever get it that hot. The steam boiler that we use (elsewhere) only will produce 357 degrees.”

Meyers said JTR has never had an accident with asphalt and has an excellent safety record with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The county Planning Commission held a public hearing on the plant on May 14 and unanimously recommended approval of the facility but attached seven conditions. The first five stipulations called for a site plan to be submitted to the county, set the plant’s hours of operation from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, mandated that the conditional use permit will be reviewed in five years and made the permit contingent upon compliance with other permits and inspections.

Beasley told the supervisors he didn’t have an issue with those five conditions, but two additional stipulations that called for installing a public fire hydrant at the site and fencing around the entire perimeter of the facility were cost prohibitive.

According to Beasley, it would cost approximately $50,000 to extend municipal water lines to the site.

“That was a very sobering, shocking number,” Beasley said. “That’s a real challenge for me going forward.”

Beasley suggested that as an alternative, he would install a 300-foot, 4-inch well with a 3-horsepower submersible pump connected to water tanks totaling approximately 100,000 gallons.

On the perimeter fence issue, Beasley said, “It won’t be a problem to put a fence around the asphalt boilers and heat exchangers. But to go put up a fence around the perimeter (would be) very problematic. It’s going to be a real nightmare when it comes time to run a business.”

Beasley said gates would need to be installed if a perimeter fence were required, and that could create confusion with truck drivers and CSX Railroad workers who would have to keep track of three sets of keys for the three different businesses at the site.

The supervisors ultimately decided to grant the conditional use permit, saying Beasley could install the well and would only need to fence in the boilers and heat exchangers for the asphalt plant.

The Branchville Volunteer Fire Department would decide if the site had adequate water.