While community members and advocacy groups review the proposed Title 5 operating permit for the Lafarge cement plant, two groups – the state Department of Health and representatives at the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health – are working on separate health studies relating to effects of the plant’s potentially toxic emissions.
Jeffrey Hammond, spokesperson for the state Department of Health, said the agency’s public health assessment will “recommend actions that might be needed to prevent or reduce individuals’ exposure to hazardous substances at or released from the Lafarge site.”
Some data from the assessment will be available early next year, Hammond said.
The Harvard study will look at the distribution of mercury, heavy metals and other pollutants. Michael Bank, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, has already spoken at events sponsored by advocacy group Community Advocates for Safe Emissions (CASE).
Rick Georgeson, spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the Department of Health’s assessment study won’t interfere with the permit approval process for Lafarge. “That’s on a separate track,” he said.
The permit limits mercury emissions to 176 pounds per year. Lafarge’s own estimate of its 2008 mercury emissions was 146 pounds; from 2003 to 2006, the EPA toxic inventory data estimate for mercury emissions were between 380 and 400 pounds a year.