Cement Company to Pay $1.7 Million for Clean Air Act Violations

Essroc Cement, the 8th largest cement producer in the country, has agreed to pay a $1.7 million penalty for Clean Air Act violations at six of its portland cement manufacturing plants. The company also agreed to invest approximately $33 million in pollution control technology.

Reducing Harmful Pollution
The EPA said it reached a settlement with the company and the Department of Justice that will reduce more than 7,000 tons of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution—two of the key pollutants from all cement plants—that can lead to childhood asthma, acid rain, and smog.

The plants involved in the settlement are in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and Puerto Rico. The company has also agreed to spend $745,000 to mitigate the effects of past excess emissions from its facilities.

Ignacia S. Moreno, the DOJ assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said. “This will bring Essroc into compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act and marks significant progress in addressing the nation’s largest sources of air pollution, and protecting the most vulnerable among us, especially children and the elderly, from respiratory and other health problems.”

According to the EPA, Essroc will install pollution control technology to reduce the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at five of its plants, and demonstrate a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system one of the Indiana plants, a technology that chemically reduces nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and water.

"If successful, this will be the first SCRs used on long wet kilns anywhere in the world. Essroc will also permanently retire its sixth plant, located in Bessemer, Penn. This plant is currently out of operation and its permanent retirement will ensure that the facility does not restart without proper permitting under the CAA," the EPA said in a statement.

Industry-wide Problem
Reducing air pollution from cement plants is one of the EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013, and Essroc was the second cement company to reach a settlement in December alone. Earlier in the month, CalPortland Company agreed to pay a $1.425 million penalty for Clean Air Act violations at its Mojave plant and spend about $1.3 million on pollution controls.

One of the main problems with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are big contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze, is that they become fine particles—particulate matter—that can cause major respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and ultimately premature death.

Reducing air pollutants from cement plants and other facilities that produce particulates is an environmental justice issue. There's still a long way to go, but the settlement with Essroc is a step.

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