New factory near West Virginia school could impact Northern Virginia's wine industry, wineries worry

The proposal to build a factory right next to a West Virginia elementary school has sparked outrage from the local community and now the concern has stretched across state lines into Northern Virginia's wine country.

The proposed Rockwool insulation factory would be located within five miles of three public schools in Jefferson County, West Virginia and angry parents filled a standing-room-only school board meeting Monday evening to voice their concerns.

Rockwool said all the emissions from the plant have been deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, but parents said that wasn't good enough and questioned their local leaders for allowing the situation to occur in the first place.

As the controversy rages in West Virginia, wineries in Northern Virginia said they're monitoring the looming project closely.

Stone Tower Winery is one of the businesses worried that drifting pollutants could cause serious risks to their grapes and vines. Nestled on 200 acres in Loudoun County, Stone Tower Winery is speaking out for the $1-billion-a-year tourism industry that could be at stake.

"What captivated our owners and sort of the ultimate vision for this property is to produce a state-driven wine that speaks of a place based off of the climate and the soil," Jeremy Zimmerman, the director of hospitality and sales at Stone Tower Winery said. "Whenever there is anything that could change what we understand to be the growing conditions of our vineyards up here on the mountain or any of the other vineyards or growers with whom we work with, its a big concern for us."

Zimmerman said the wineries still have limited information about the proposed factory and have started looking into its potential impacts. What concerns Northern Virginia's wine country is that they've heard pollutants from the Rockwool insulation plant in Ranson, West Virginia could drift as much as 35 miles and many Loudoun County grape growers, like Stone Tower Winery, are within that radius.

Zimmerman said the grape vines absorb molecules and nutrients from both above and beneath the soil, and whenever there's any change to the air quality there's a big risk to the way the grapes grow, behave and eventually taste.

"I think the big concern for ourselves and hopefully other Loudoun grape growers is the unknown impact of what the listed pollutants might actually pose for the health of our vines, the quality of our food," Zimmerman explained. "And then how you would resolve any sort of imbalances that would emerge from those changing conditions."

Other businesses in Loudoun County told FOX 5 they also worry that the factory could have an impact on them and are hoping state and county lawmakers step in to help.