Approximately 50 people attended a public meeting Wednesday to hear the pros and cons of a chemical company locating in the Newcomerstown Industrial Park.
Reagent Chemical Co., Ringoes, N.J., is hoping to build a transfer station in the park. The development would mean from 15 to 20 new jobs in the community. Of those, about half would be truck drivers and the balance would work at the station.
Once completed, the station would accept hydrochloric acid (HCL) by rail and transfer it to trucks that would then transport it to its final destination.
Many of those attending were from the Mizer Addition, which is across from where the new facility would be located.
David Matuszkiewicz, Director of Eastern Operations for Reagent Chemical, gave a brief overview of the company but spent the majority of his time answering questions from the audience.
Many of those questions were of the "What if" variety as several of those attending asked, "What if there's a safety incident?" "What if there's a spill?" "If there is a problem, who's responsible for clean-up?" Those attending also asked about property values, traffic on County Road 15, homeowners insurance and if there would be any effect on ground water, as most homes in the Mizer Addition have their own wells and are not on the Newcomerstown water system.
"Safety is a big part of our organization," Matuszkiewicz said. "We've never had a major incident." He said they have had a handful (five or so) emergency responses, such as a truck being rear-ended or a railroad car being improperly fastened.
He described the proposed operation as a three-year development, with two to three railroad cars per week being brought to the facility, with the hydrochloric acid then being transferred to tank trucks which will deliver the product to the company's customers, many of which are in the gas and oil industry.
A common comment was, "All it takes is one accident." George Brode, president of the Newcomerstown Community Improvement Corporation, said the CIC and the village of Newcomerstown investigated the company and its safety record and noted, "There are requirements from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Those requirements are in place to insure that if there is some sort of catastrophe at the site, there is no problem with groundwater."
Matuszkiewicz said the facility would create 15-20 jobs with pay in the $75,000-$100,000 range.
One person questioned whether the company would receive a tax abatement.
"Certainly," Brode said. He noted all the companies currently in the Industrial Park had received a tax abatement to locate in Newcomerstown and said that all of those tax abatements have expired and the taxes now being collected benefit both the Village of Newcomerstown and the Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District.
In response to questions, Matuszkiewicz said employees are given random drug and alcohol tests and that there are regular training drills and inspections. One person for the company goes from facility to facility and does Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) type inspections and then shares findings with all the facilities.
Also in response to questions, Heather Stein-Wells of the Newcomerstown Emergency Rescue Squad noted Tuscarawas County has a "reverse 9-1-1" system in which if there is a problem, 911 dispatchers would send out a message to residents in an affected area and give them instructions on what to do or if there needs to be an evacuation of any sort.
Mayor Pat Cadle said the village would create a document outlining what steps would be taken in the event of any issue.
Denny Barlow of Newcomerstown, who has worked in the chemical industry for over 18 years, said the chance of a catastrophic accident with hydrochloric acid is "about the same as getting hit by lightning."
Susan Little of Newcomerstown, who worked in Washington with chemical regulations, said there were very few problems with hydrochloric acid in a closed system, such as that being proposed, and said, "I think we're going in the right direction."
Reagent Chemical is a family-owned business that started in 1959 and is the largest HCL marketer in the country with over 600 employees and 40 locations.