Raleigh, North Carolina: Activists from across the country have gathered to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal to set limits on mercury pollution from cement makers. EPA has never regulated mercury from cement kilns, and nearly a dozen citizens are organizing to deliver a message on behalf of communities exposed to toxic pollution from these cement kilns that EPA must protect their health, livelihood and the environment (reports the EarthJustice website).
EPA decided to hold a hearing January 24 at its facility in Research Triangle Park, in North Carolina. In a little publicised December 2005 notice, EPA proposed to allow cement kilns to continue mercury pollution without any emission limit whatsoever.
In crafting its regulations for cement kilns, EPA officials met with cement industry representatives repeatedly, but made no effort to meet with representatives of affected communities. “EPA is sending a message that they just don’t care to involve us in decisions that are designed to protect our health and environment,” said Marti Sinclair, Chairperson of the Sierra Club’s Air Quality Committee. “Since EPA won’t come talk to us, the only way we can make ourselves heard is to travel to EPA. Not everyone can afford to do this. It’s sad that EPA has set up this barrier between itself and the people affected by mercury pollution.”
In 2000, a federal court ordered EPA to set mercury limits for cement kilns. After over five years of inaction, EPA finally proposed a rule last December that failed to include mercury controls. “Simply put, EPA ignored the law, ignored a court order and disregarded its mission to protect public health,” said Earthjustice attorney James Pew. In the EPA’s most recently issued report, in 2002, cement kilns nationwide apparently emitted nearly 13,000 pounds of mercury.