Construction began Friday on one of the nation’s largest cement plants, about 50 miles south of St. Louis, in spite of environmentalist concerns about the factory that will sit near the Mississippi River. Holcim Ltd will build the US$600m facility after settling legal challenges from environmental groups concerned about pollution. Still, some environmentalists remain concerned, saying the plant will add to already high emission levels at a time when the St. Louis region already exceeds federal standards, said Ted Heisel, executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
However the mood was festive at the site of the future plant, where Holcim employees joined Missouri officials for a groundbreaking ceremony. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., echoed the thoughts of many when she expressed relief that the project had finally come to fruition after years of litigation and setbacks. She dismissed environmental concerns that delayed the project. "I think it’s a bogus issue," she said. "Obviously we’ll prove the environmental community wrong. It is the single biggest economic opportunity in the 10 years I’ve been in Congress," Emerson said. About 1200 workers will be hired to build the plant over three years and the facility will provide 200 jobs when completed, according to Holcim.