Lehigh Cement Co has agreed to pay a US$90,000 penalty and will speed up the timetable for some US$55m in planned improvements at its Union Bridge plant, as part of an agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment on complaints about dust and other air pollution concerns. A consent decree was filed yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court, according to an MDE spokesman, after the department issued seven notices to the company for violations between mid-August and early December. The department reported 26 complaints from citizens last year, including problems with cement dust.
"We are very pleased with the terms of the agreement," said Sher Horosko in a prepared statement for CarrollAir, one of several citizen groups that has mobilized recently against problems at the plant. "Most importantly, there is now a corrective action plan in place with specific milestones designed to clean up the air."
Peter Lukas, the Union Bridge plant manager who signed the agreement, called it "an action plan with MDE to improve our emissions system," which has an automated monitoring system. "Nearly everything we planned to be done within the next three years, and now we have to do it in the next year and a half." The improvements include a new truck wash, filter units, vacuum system and loading silos for the trucks and rail cars, he said. Under the agreement, a new US$30m cement mill will replace the company’s problematic craneway - a large, 1950s-era storage area with openings for ventilation that no longer will be used. Lehigh also faces a possible $2500 weekly penalty if it fails to meet its terms, according to the agreement.