CHICAGO, Illinois, September 9, 2008 (ENS) - In the first settlement secured by the federal government in its enforcement of the Clean Air Act to reduce air emissions from Portland cement plants, two companies that own and operate a cement plant near Dixon, Illinois will pay an $800,000 civil penalty and install pollution controls.
The Portland cement industry is the third largest source of industrial emissions in the nation, emitting more than 500,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.
The U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that St. Marys Cement Inc. and St. Barbara Cement Inc. have agreed to have pollution control equipment in operation by April 30, 2009, and from then on to achieve required emission reductions at three of the four cement production lines at their Dixon facility located in north-central Illinois.
"This precedent-setting settlement is the first for the Portland cement industry," said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased that this settlement will provide important environmental benefits without the need for complicated and prolonged litigation."
Headquartered in Toronto, St. Marys supplies cement materials to the Great Lakes Region in both the United States and Canada and is also a producer of concrete and aggregates to the Ontario market.
St. Marys Cement is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Votorantim Cimentos, an international cement manufacturer based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
By merger, St. Barbara Cement, Inc. became successor to Cemex Central Plains Cement, LLC, the former owner of the Dixon plant, and assumed liability for the emissions about which the federal government complained.
In a complaint filed Monday, concurrently with the lodging of the consent decree, the federal government alleged that the two companies illegally operated four cement kilns at the Dixon plant after they had been modified in a manner that allowed the kilns to emit more pollution.
The government cited the companies for operating the modified kilns without obtaining necessary permits and installing required pollution control equipment as required by the New Source Review requirements of the Clean Air Act.
Without admitting liability, the two companies have agreed to replace a kiln at the Dixon plant with technology to reduce emissions or to permanently shut it down. These actions will reduce combined emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides by approximately 2,700 tons each year, the federal agencies said.
In 2006, EPA began to focus on improving compliance with the Clean Air Act at Portland cement manufacturing facilities across the country due to widespread noncompliance and significant amounts of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emitted during the manufacturing process.
"This settlement marks a significant step in controlling harmful nitrogen oxide emissions at the Dixon plant, and from Portland cement manufacturing facilities in general," said Cheryl Newton, acting director of the Air and Radiation Division of the EPA's Region 5 Office in Chicago.
"The installation of state-of-the-art technology sets an important benchmark for the control of this harmful pollutant," she said. "EPA is committed to ensuring that cement manufacturers comply with the Clean Air Act."
A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department website at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.
Portland cement, which is used in virtually all types of concrete, is produced by heating limestone, clay, and other raw materials at high temperatures to form "clinker," which is then blended with gypsum and ground into a fine powder. This powder, known as Portland cement, is mixed with water, sand, and stone to form concrete.
Nitrogen oxide emissions cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. This pollutant is also a significant contributor to acid rain, smog, and haze which impair visibility in national parks.
The EPA says air pollution from Portland cement manufacturing facilities can travel long distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.
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