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Cemex fined, to cut emissions

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Cemex, Inc. agreed to pay a $1.4 million fine for Clean Air Act violations at its cement plant off of Dayton-Yellow Springs Road in Fairborn in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department last week.

In addition to the penalty, Cemex will spend $2 million on emission control equipment that will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, resulting in fewer particulates and ozone in Yellow Springs and Miami Township, which are downwind of the plant.

“What this means is much cleaner air for the community at large to breathe,” said Dawn Falleur of the Green Environmental Coalition, which has been pushing for stricter pollution controls at the plant for 20 years. “It really will make a big difference in not only what we breathe but what settles into our town and our farmland.”

The settlement came after Cemex modified its plant without obtaining the proper permit from the U.S. EPA. Dayton’s Regional Air Pollution Control Agency notified Cemex and the U.S. EPA of this likely violation in 2005 when its inspectors found that a newly-installed fan increased production and emissions from the plant, according to the agency’s director, John Paul.

Falleur said that the Green Environmental Coalition learned of the plant modifications independently, when they were tipped off about an increase in fuel being stored at the site — information they provided to Paul’s agency.

Of the $1.4 million penalty, $467,600 will be split between the Dayton Regional Air Pollution Agency and the Ohio EPA. Twenty percent of the Ohio EPA’s share will be used for its Clean Diesel School Bus Program Fund. In Dayton, the unrestricted funds will likely be used for more pollution monitoring in neighborhoods and clean-up activities, according to Paul.

“In the Dayton area, [Cemex] is probably in the top five along with Cargill, Dayton Power and Light and the air force base in terms of sulfur dioxide emissions and nitrogen oxide emissions, so these reductions will be significant,” Paul said.

Sulfur dioxide, which contributes to fine particulates, will be reduced by about 2,300 tons per year and sulfur dioxide, which can form ozone, will be cut by approximately 288 tons. Both are known contributors to asthma, acid rain and smog, according to the U.S. EPA.

Cemex, based in Houston, is one of the top cement manufacturers in the country, providing cement and concrete products for building construction. They own and operate 14 Portland Cement kiln plants in the U.S.

The Cemex plant has been a target of the Green Environmental Coalition since 1990, when the local environmental group contended that hazardous waste was being illegally stored on site. In 1994 the coalition won a $100,000 settlement from Cemex and a ruling from the state that the waste be permanently removed. Then, in 2008, the coalition successfully delayed Cemex from burning tires in their kiln, which the company eventually decided to forego due to changes in the economy, Falleur said.

“It’s always a good thing to have citizens groups that are watching things,” said Paul of Green Environmental Coalition’s participation in efforts to monitor Cemex. “Public involvement raises questions and helps us really pursue emissions reductions and make sure that it happens.”


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