LATEST: Dozens turnout for biomass open house - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

LATEST: Dozens turnout for biomass open house

by Colby Robertson

ROTHSCHILD (WAOW) -- In November of last year, Domtar and We Energies partnered together proposing the construction of a $255 million dollar biomass plant in Rothschild.

The plant would use waste wood to produce electricity, but the plan raises concerns from some neighbors and doctors.

Thursday, the Milwaukee based company held two open houses in Rothschild. It's an opportunity for residents to voice their concerns and get all their questions answered.

Rob Hughes lives 300 yards from the proposed biomass plant. He's been an opponent of the idea since the beginning. He's not denying the fact the plant could be up and running as early as 2013, but he thinks it's important residents keep asking questions so their concerns don't get put on the back burner.

Rob Hughes says, "We just want to know if the facility is safe."

It's questions like this that leaders at We Energies promise to answer and the main reason they're holding two informational open houses.

For Andy Champine it's an opportunity to get all the facts about a project that could or could not be harmful to his two grandsons who go to school at Rothschild Elementary.

Champine says, "My concern right now is that the system is environmentally safe. That's what I'm worried about. If it's safe and good, I don't have a problem I just want to make sure it's safe."

Doctor Mark Roberts is one of many on hand throughout the day to answer questions from concerned residents. As a principal scientist he gives some insight on the environmental, safety and health concerns.

Dr. Mark Roberts says, "It's important to keep in mind they're replacing the old less efficient generators so it's contributing to the improvement in air quality."

The controversy over biomass goes beyond concerned residents. Doctors also disagree. A physician from the Florida Medical Association says biomass plants release tons of harmful pollutants that can cause asthma, heart attacks and stroke.

That's why he says several medical associations including the American Lung Association are against biomass.

Still Dr. Roberts says this project is an upgrade and from a health standpoint the biomass plant is environmentally friendly.

Dr. Mark Roberts says, "Compared to what they had I think it's a great improvement."

Leaders at We Energies hope the project will get approval by the end of this year so they can start breaking ground sometime next spring.

Online Reporter: Colby Robertson

Powered by Frankly