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Companies to pay penalty, reduce harmful emissions from Hagerstown cement plant

Release Date: 07/11/2013
Contact Information: Roy Seneca (215) 814-5567

PHILADELPHIA (July 11, 2013) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced today that Holcim (U.S.) Inc., the owner and operator of a Portland cement manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Md., and its previous owner St. Lawrence Cement Co., have agreed to a settlement that includes a $700,000 civil penalty to resolve Clean Air Act violations.

In addition to the penalty, for continued operations at the plant, Holcim has agreed to install advanced pollution controls on its kiln at the facility in order to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions.

“This action demonstrates the importance of the Clean Air Act in protecting the air we breathe,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “Controlling harmful emissions from cement plants helps ensure that human health and the environment are protected in surrounding communities and downwind from the plants.”

The DOJ, on behalf of EPA, filed a complaint against Holcim and St. Lawrence in April 2011 alleging that between 2003 and 2007, the companies unlawfully made modifications to the Hagerstown cement kiln that resulted in significant net increases of sulfur dioxide emissions without first obtaining the permit required by the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Non-Attainment New Source Review requirements.

This section of the Clean Air Act specifically requires that, if modifications are made to facilities that result in significant net increases in emissions, the operator must perform a pollution analysis and obtain the necessary permit in advance of construction and install any required pollution control equipment.

In addition to the civil penalty, Holcim will spend at least $150,000 on an environmental mitigation project approved to benefit air quality, which will involve replacing an outdated piece of equipment with a newer model that emits lower levels of pollutants.

The settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including Portland cement manufacturing facilities.

Exposure to emissions of sulfur dioxide, a key pollutant emitted from cement plants, can cause severe respiratory problems. Reducing sulfur dioxide emissions will benefit the communities located near the facility, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children. Air pollution from Portland cement manufacturing facilities can travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.

The proposed consent decree was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree lodged today and additional information is available at http://www.epa.gov/enforcement/air/cases/holcim.html.