Lehigh Cement Co cited following malfunction

Lehigh Cement Co cited following malfunction
Published: 30 October 2006

State officials have not yet decided whether the firm will be fined for the September 24 incident that created air pollution and released limestone dust in Maidencreek Township.

The Lehigh Cement Co. plant in Maidencreek Township has been cited for a Sept. 24 malfunction that covered neighboring residences with limestone dust.

Craig T. Scheetz, an air-quality specialist with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he issued a violation notice to Lehigh because the company caused air pollution and allowed dust to cross its property line. The agency has not yet decided whether the company will be fined, he said.

“This we consider to be an isolated malfunction,” Scheetz said.

The Sept. 24 incident happened when the path of crushed limestone was blocked during the cement-making process. After workers cleared the blockage, the dust flew into the neighborhood along nearby Buena Vista Road.

Plant environmental coordinator Charles A. Bortz said Lehigh is taking steps to remedy the problem, including training employees to use equipment that can clear such blockages without allowing dust to escape.

David A. Tranquillo, who lives along Buena Vista Road, hired Leed Environmental Inc., Spring Township, to analyze dust from his front steps on Sept. 24.

The dust had 40.7 milligrams of arsenic per kilogram, he said. The state limit for that type of emission is 12 milligrams per kilogram.

Tranquillo said he was concerned about the results.“I’m sick and tired of hearing it’s lime dust,” he said.

Bortz would not discuss the dust’s arsenic levels. But DEP spokeswoman Sandra J. Roderick said the test results should not cause alarm. The state’s levels are chosen assuming that people are exposed to an element over an extended period of time. “Given what we know from the (Sept. 24) event, there’s no health-related concerns,” Roderick said.

Scheetz said arsenic is a natural element in some of the limestone that is crushed to make cement.