Merck expansion

Brent Finnegan -- June 5th, 2007

As you’ve probably already read in today’s DNR, Merck announced another expansion at the Stonewall plant in Elkton. This time, instead of $57 million (for that HPV vaccine), it’s a $193 million expansion. This will reportedly result in 70 new high-paying jobs.

Is this a sign that the “bio tech” industry in the Valley is growing? Or is it just coincidental? Also, I wonder if this will have any affect on Merck’s nitrogen and phosphorous output into the South Fork of the Shenandoah River (something that may possibly be contributing to the fishkills).

4 Responses to “Merck expansion”

  1. WTOP has a story on stuff happening with chemicals and fish in the Potomac River today:

  2. Bubby says:

    Merck requested and was denied a permit-by-rule to increase their wastewater Total Nitrogen discharge by 300% and Phosphorus by 400%. This means that their discharge request will undergo a comprehensive technical review for these damaging water nutrients.

    The increased nutrient discharge is related to a planned large increase in their wastewater discharge volume. Merck’s attorneys are claiming that their wastewater process is state of the art, but until our public regulatory agency scientists, and engineers can get a look at the details, we won’t know.

    On March 9, 2007 The State Water Control Board agree with the VDEQ that the situation required public review and requested that the Governor execute that process. We are now waiting for that process to begin. You can look for public notice of the Merck permit process here (pulldown “Water Control Board, State”):

    Nutrients are “stressors” that lower dissolved oxygen in the water, and feed blooms of algae that restrict the growth of bottom grass habitat. They are part of a complex of harmful human actions that make the Shen a sick river.

  3. finnegan says:

    I don’t get it. They were denied a permit for an increase, but they’re going to expand anyway?

  4. Bubby says:

    They were denied a exemption from the permit review process. They had sought an executive decision that because they were using the best Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) treatment process they should be given a permit that would allow the increased nutrient discharges that come with an increased wastewater discharge volume.

    That won’t happen. Now they will have to demonstrate what they do to generate wastewater, how they treat it, and allow the public the opportunity to scrutinize that documentation. And then the State (VDEQ, SWCB) will rule.

    They are making a business decision to keep the cost of expansion to a minimum, by limiting their treatment improvement costs. Much of that cost is related to the way they generate wastewater – they flush a bunch of crap down the pipe, and then are having a hard time getting it back out at the treatment plant.

    The problem is, we don’t yet understand what is killing the fish in the Shen. It is some combination of human activity, including “nutrification” of the river. Eventually we will have to reduce the nutrient concentrations in the river. So if we give Merck a pass because they are an economic engine and big employer, then we will have to take it out of other dischargers – including taxpayers, sewer rate-payers, and other industries.

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