Permanente plant faces local enviro opposition

Permanente plant faces local enviro opposition
Published: 22 November 2010

Members of the Californian Los Altos Hills Town Council have expressed doubts that county and other regulatory agencies are paying close enough attention to activities at Lehigh’s Permanente cement plant and quarry just to the south of the city’s boundaries, report local press.

There are several issues swirling around the Permanente cement kiln and quarry, but the most current issue is whether Lehigh can use what’s called the East Materials Storage Area (EMSA) for storing quarried rock that cannot be used for manufacturing cement.

In 2008, the county issued a notice of violation over Lehigh’s use of the area, after a citizen complained about a visible, growing rock pile. Lehigh officials contend that they have what are called "vested rights" to use the storage area. They argue that the area has been used historically by the quarry, and thus are a part of an existing conditional use permit.

At some point the board will be asked to determine if Lehigh does have vested rights to the EMSA. If it is determined that Lehigh does not have those rights, the company will have to apply for a new permit for that specific area of the company’s property.

Lehigh Plant Manager Henrik Wesseling assured the council that the company is not emitting toxic levels that would harm local residents. Despite Wesseling’s assurances, council members remained skeptical that the plant is not contaminating the air, water and land surrounding the operation at unsafe levels. Lehigh’s own reports show the plant is emitting mercury, CO2, and other toxins.

Increased cement stocks in the market brought about by new entrants and existing players expanding their capacity have set the stage for bruising turf wars.