City Council, Regional Agencies Host Meeting About Lehigh Cement

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the city council of Cupertino, Calif., hosted a forum in early September to update residents on regulatory agencies overseeing Lehigh Southwest Cement’s Cupertino facility and to learn about the latest mandates from the agencies. Updates were given by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District), County of Santa Clara, and San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Jim Karas, director of engineering from the Air District, shared the latest emission standards that went into effect earlier this month. Lehigh Southwest will either need to reduce output or install new equipment to lower emissions. In 2011, the plant installed an activated carbon injection system to comply with new national mercury emission limits to reduce emissions by as much as 90 percent. Karas also mentioned that there may be a new, taller single-emissions stack coming to the facility in 2015 to further disperse emissions.

The water quality control board was not in attendance, but sent a letter to the city updating its regulatory status. According to the letter, a new permit for Lehigh will be released for public comment later this year. It also stated that over the last two years the company has paid administrative civil liability penalties of $10,000 and $21,000 for alleged discharges to Permanente Creek. Lehigh is undertaking efforts to cut the facility’s discharge of selenium and other water pollutants into Permanente Creek within the next two and a half years. The company agreed to restore approximately 3.5 miles of Permanente Creek as part of a settlement with the Sierra Club over a 2011 lawsuit.

County representatives shared with the council the different components of the Lehigh facility, the latest on the county-issued reclamation amendment, and how Lehigh reports to the county each year.

Residents who spoke out at the meeting continued to raise concerns about emissions and perceived health risks of the facility. They encouraged the city to take a greater role in keeping an eye on the company. Some suggested the city piggyback on potential lawsuits and legal appeals that residents and groups are considering.

“What we’re asking is not for the city of Cupertino to be out in front or do anything really that’s going to be a pioneering effort; we’re asking you to join these other agencies,” said Richard Adler, a resident and member of Bay Area for Clean Environment. “There really is no city or municipal group of whose residents are more impacted than the city of Cupertino. It is really incumbent on you to take a stand.”

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