Ash Grove Cement Co. could begin burning tyres for fuel by late next year, now that tests show the plant would continue to meet state and federal air pollution limits. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality said Friday that results from trial burns showed significant decreases in some pollutants and insignificant increases in others.
DEQ spokesman Brian McManus said the department could not comment on whether it ultimately will grant Ash Grove a permit to burn tyres at its Louisville, Neb., facility. Barring the unexpected, however, the state appears to have no legal reason for denying Ash Grove a permit. State law and the federal Environmental Protection Agency allow burning of tyres as fuel. However, the state’s permit review process and the subsequent physical changes that Ash Grove would need to make should take about nine months to a year to complete.
Company spokesman Lance Latham said Ash Grove is "very pleased" by the test results. The company would be able to replace about 20 per cent of the coal it uses -- and pays for -- with scrap tyres it would be paid to take. Ash Grove anticipates burning about 1 million tyres a year. Latham said most would come from Nebraska, which generates about 1.6 million scrap tyres annually.
Some neighbors of the plant and at least one environmental group, the Sierra Club, voiced concern about the tire plan. Geral Vinduska, who lives about six miles from the plant, said test results were done under ideal conditions and don’t reflect daily realities. Ash Grove, he said, has had too many problems with emissions for him to feel comfortable about burning tyres.
The tests indicated a 50 per cent decrease in nitrogen oxides and about a 33 per cent decrease in sulfur oxides from burning coal alone. The former cause respiratory problems and the latter contribute to acid rain. The plant also releases small amounts of dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyl, hexavalent chromium and lead. The test results indicated negligible increases in these materials.