Motorists and residents complained of a strong odor coming from Route 29 in Gainesville earlier this week This led a recycling company to halt operations, Wednesday evening, as the odor likely signaled the presence of hazardous toxins released into the air.
Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson posted on Facebook, Thursday, saying that Prince William County is aware of the concern and that the business owner has halted the operation that produced the noxious odor.
Friday, Bristow Beat learned that the odor was caused by a recycling operation at Sam's Junk Recycle Scraps & Material Services. According to one of Lawson's aides, 'Sam's Junk Yard' was recycling asphalt.
The business owner agreed to shut down the operation at his own volition until he could bring in an environmental enginerer to work at reconfiguring the emissions system.
"When the plant is ready to resume work, DEQ will be tested to ensure that there are no dangerous substances being released into the air," said an aide at Lawson's office.
As Friday the DEQ did not visit the site.*
Asphalt is advertised as being a better option than concrete as it can be reused and recycled. However, according to the National Library of Medicine's website, asphalt contains toxic gases that pose a public health threat. Toxins can harm anyone, but especially those working directly with it.
"Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are present in asphalt structure, which also contains toxic elements such as benzene, toluene, nitric and carbonic acid, benz(a)pyrene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. The ubiquitousness of asphalt in daily life results in an unavoidable health disturbance to public health.1–4 Fumes and vapors, which directly affect the respiratory system, arise when asphalt is processed or used."
Fortunately, the issue was likely addressed in sufficient time to prevent adverse health effects. A wide range of health conditions can result from prolonged exposure to some of the chemicals contained in asphalt gases.
The recycling business is located in an industrial zone of the county. Residents currently have concerns that rezoning approvals have increasingly led to industrial areas encroaching upon residential and environmentally zoned areas. These zoning could lead to harmful health consequences for residents and visitors.
*CORRECTION: The DEQ did not shut down the process, as Bristow Beat previously reported. The owner shut down the process. The DEQ will need to inspect it before it resumes.