Continental Cement has asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for 10 days to unload hazardous waste from rail cars instead of being limited to three days as state law requires.
DNR is accepting public comments about the proposed variance until March 3.
The cement plant kiln burns about 90,000 tons of hazardous and non-hazardous waste a year. Much of the material burned in its kiln comes by rail car. Jerry Epperson, environmental manager for Continental Cement, said when the company can’t get to all the rail cars in a three-day time frame, they are removed by the railroad to other sites.
"We feel the cars are safer on our property where they can be inspected and we’ve got people trained to observe them," said Epperson. "We would agree to inspect them on a regular basis to ensure nothing is wrong or there are no leaks, which is something that’s not going to happen if (the rail cars) are sitting at a rail siding."
Epperson said the cement plant is charged a fee by the railroad every time they must delay the unloading of cars. He said such a move puts the plant on par with competitors in Kansas, who have a 10-day unloading period.
The Missouri DNR Hazardous Waste Program supports the idea. Aaron Schmidt, unit chief of operating facilities for DNR, said the time frame for dealing with hazardous waste varies from state to state.
He said Continental Cement employees can unload about three rail cars a day and that, of the three cement kilns in Missouri, Continental Cement receives the most hazardous waste via rail cars. Extending the time the rail cars could be on cement plant property would benefit everyone, Schmidt said.
"They have the practices in place in case there’s a leak," said Schmidt. "They have security measures. They have inspections. They have the equipment to respond to leaks. There’s a number of fail safes. It is a good thing."
The Hazardous Waste Committee will get a recommendation on the variance question from DNR at its April 20 meeting in Jefferson City.