The Cemex-owned Davenport cement plant, which has already been closed temporarily because of the weak economy, will likely face another financial setback in the form of new environmental regulations.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under recently appointed Administrator Lisa Jackson, has proposed strict limits on mercury emissions at cement kilns. According to the EPA, cement production is the fourth largest source of the nation’s airborne mercury -- due to the raw materials and fuel required for making cement.
And curbing the pollutant is costly. This is especially true at older cement facilities like the century-old operation in Davenport, which EPA records show is among the country’s top 20 mercury-emitting plants.
Cemex officials said Thursday the Davenport facility, which last reported 163 pounds of annual mercury emissions, would likely have to reduce the pollutant’s output by 70 percent under the proposed rules.
"We don’t know the theoretical costs right now," said Cemex spokeswoman Jennifer Borgen in an e-mail to the Sentinel. "We are first trying to determine what technology exists and if it could even be applied to the plant."
The proposed regulations come as the federal government responds to lawsuits by environmental groups demanding a tougher stand on mercury. The EPA says the rules would reduce mercury emissions 81 percent across the nation’s roughly 110 cement plants.