Helen Wiley lives very close to a rail yard in North Charleston, and thinks she knows what Chicora-Cherokee residents can expect if a proposed rail yard is built on the former Navy base.

“Vibration, noise, air pollution, traffic — that’s all going to increase,” said Wiley, who lives near CSX Corp’s Bennett Yard.

And she’s worried that the 90-acre rail yard planned by Palmetto Railways, to serve a new port under construction at the south end of the former base, could mean more trains will be coming through Bennett Yard as well.

Like many people who attended an Army Corps of Engineers meeting Thursday to discuss an environmental impact study for the planned rail yard, Wiley had questions that went unanswered.

Project Manager Nathaniel Ball said the Corps had no answers because the study is just beginning, and the point of the public hearing was to learn what the questions should be. The Corp plans to spend about a year studying how the rail yard would impact things like wetlands, pollution and area traffic.

The proposed facility, costing an estimated $180 million, would impact rail traffic in many parts of North Charleston, and alter the road network in and around the former Navy base.

For O’Hear Avenue resident Tony Gentile, the plan displayed Thursday would eliminate one of only two ways he can travel from his home out of the base area, because St. Johns Avenue would become a dead-end instead of connecting to McMillan Avenue. The rail yard plan would also eliminate part of McMillan.

“This is really going to impact that neighborhood around O’Hear and St. Johns,” Gentile said.

Ball said that’s exactly the kind of input the Corps was looking for, because he didn’t realize that roads on the former base, shown on maps, are closed by gates at St. Johns.

Those who face the most obvious impact from the rail yard are residents of Chicora-Cherokee, one of the oldest communities in North Charleston, where some homes are estimated to be as close as 50 feet to the rail lines.

“Are they going to be coupling trains over there at 2 a.m., keeping my kids from sleeping?” asked Bill Stanfield, a Success Street resident who is chairman of the community non-profit group Metanoia.

Stanfield and other community residents also worried about pollution, noise, house-shaking vibrations, a decline in property values, and the loss of a gym and community center on the property where the rail yard is planned.

A noise wall is planned between the rail yard and the community.

Palmetto Railways, a division of the S.C. Department of Commerce, won’t get the results of the environmental impact study until 2015, and the public will get to comment at the start of the process, and when a draft report comes out in about a year.

“We know there are going to be impacts, and we want to mitigate them as much as we reasonably can,” Palmetto Railways President and CEO Jeff McWhorter told the crowd of more than 100 people gathered at the Chicora School of Communications for the meeting.

The Corps is involved because the rail yard plan would fill more than 6 acres of wetlands.

Bryan Cordell lives just north of the base property, above Noisette Creek, and said he’s concerned about the impact the project will have on wildlife and water quality. Trains would cross Noisette Creek to access the rail yard, and a rail bridge would have to be rebuilt there first.

“I like to spend my Saturday mornings taking a kayak out on Noisette Creek and seeing all the wildlife,” Cordell said.

No more meetings are planned to discuss the scope of the environmental study, but the Corps will accept comments until Dec. 14. Email comments@NavyBaseICTF.com or mail comments to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, c/o Nathaniel Ball, 69-A Hagood Ave., Charleston, SC 29403.

For detailed information about the rail yard study visit navybaseictf.com.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552