Cement plants blamed for higher mercury pollution

Cement plants blamed for higher mercury pollution
Published: 01 August 2006

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that, across the country, cement kilns are responsible for thousands of pounds of mercury pollution each year. Despite this, THE EPA has ignored both federal law and court orders that require this pollution to be controlled.

"It is beyond irresponsible," said Earthjustice attorney James Pew. "Cement kilns are some of the worst mercury polluters in the country, yet the EPA simply allows them to continue polluting. There are technologies that can reduce mercury output from cement kilns, but the EPA just pretends it doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, our streams and lakes get contaminated and we’re told that it’s no longer safe to catch and eat fish."

The Clean Air Act required the EPA to set mercury standards and, in 2000, a federal appeals court found that the agency’s failure to do so was flatly unlawful. The agency’s conduct is, in this regard, symptomatic of its disregard for air toxics issues generally. A report by the Government Accountability Office released in July 2006 concluded that the EPA had neglected the Clean Air Act’s toxics provisions.

Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club and a coalition of national and local environmental groups in nearly two dozen cases challenging EPA’s lack of regulatory protection against toxic air polluters.

"Cement kilns emit large amounts of mercury and other air pollutants and they need to have the best air pollution control technology available if public health is to come before profits," Jane Williams of Sierra Club said. "The Bush administration’s refusal to control these kilns puts at risk every single person living near these facilities. For the agency to neglect protection for these citizens is unacceptable."