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Local air polluters Lafarge and Holcim among state's worst, EPA finds

Dec 21, 2010 6:40 am
Cement makers Holcim and Lafarge are among the state’s top polluters, according to a recently released report from the Environmental Protection Agency reported on in today's Daily Mail. The report, which details the amount of toxic chemicals released to land, air and water in 2009 by industrial facilities across the United States, shows Holcim’s Catskill plant and Lafarge’s plant in Ravena are among those most responsible for pollution in New York. And all this despite recent public relations campaigns to the contrary by both companies, and Lafarge's being currently in the midst of a major effort to rebuild its Albany County plant. The report says Lafarge released about 445,500 pounds of chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, ammonia and lead and mercury compounds, ranking it ninth in the state for on-site releases. Last year’s pollution total at Lafarge represents a nearly 70 percent increase over 2008, the report shows, although the amount of lead and mercury compounds emitted is lower. Lafarge spokespeople attributed the drastic increase to additional testing done by plant officials. The report says Holcim released 189,000 pounds of chemicals, including hydrochloric and sulfuric acid, as well as lead and mercury compounds, ranking it 14th in the state for on-site releases. But unlike Lafarge, Holcim emissions were lower last year than in 2008 — by more than 120,000 pounds. The EPA report, known as the Toxics Release Inventory, is a yearly analysis of pollution data and has been made public since 1988. “This report informs the public and policymakers about the types of pollution in our communities and where they come from,” said Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator for New York, in a statement. “It is an invaluable tool that we all can use to better understand pollution problems and to take action to protect health and their environment. The data is a reminder that we need to work toward preventing pollution at the source.”

Most of the Lafarge pollution is in the form of air emissions from the plant’s kiln, Lafarge Environmental Manager John Reagan said Monday. A smaller amount of the chemicals are present in the kiln dust and released in a secure landfill, he said.

Holcim Human Resources Manager Tony Madrazo did not return a call for comment Monday.

Catskill’s Lehigh Northeast Cement Co. and Stiefel Labs in Oak Hill also reported data to the EPA. Lehigh disclosed the release of 111 pounds of chemicals, including chromium, lead, manganese and nickel compounds, while Stiefel said it emitted 250 pounds of compound benzoyl peroxide.

More than 600 industrial facilities in New York are currently required by law to disclose its emissions data to the EPA.

The Finch Paper plant in Glens Falls topped the agency’s list of state polluters, reporting a total of nearly 3.8 million pounds of on-site releases.

Total releases last year to land, air and water in New York dropped 26 percent from 2008, from 24.7 million pounds to 18.3 million. Similar decreases were seen at the national level, too.

In 2009, 3.37 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment, a decrease of 12 percent from the year before. Air pollution dropped 20 percent, while water and land decreased 18 and four percent, respectively.
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