DEP confirms violations at CEMEX Cement Plant; Up for Discussion May 26 at County Commission Meeting

May 22, 2015

Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FL DEP)  External Affairs Manager Ana Gibbs confirmed today that the CEMEX Brooksville South Cement Plant is currently noncompliant, but the “Department is currently working with CEMEX to resolve this  situation.”    This is a Portland cement manufacturing facility comprised of two cement kilns, one of them an old coal burning plant, located on CEMEX property north of Fort Dade Avenue in Brooksville, and north of the proposed new mine on Cortez Blvd. that was voted down on April 28th.

On August 14, 2013, a mercury emissions test on In-Line Kiln No. 2 showed the facility violated the mercury emissions limits of the permit, which is 41 micrograms per dry standard cubic meter.  The emission that day was  52.71 micrograms per dry standard cubic meter.   The kiln was operated  with the raw mill down for a period of 80 hours from 8/14/13–9/23/13.  Mercury emissions are significantly below emissions limit when the kiln operates with the raw mill operational–the wood it provides to the fuel mix lowers emissions.

The kiln was re-tested on September 24, 2013,  40 days later, and passed with an average mercury emissions concentration of 6.83 micrograms per dry standard cubic meter.  Apparently the raw mill was working and wood was keeping the emissions down.

A re-review of CEMEX’s 2013 Annual Statement of Compliance and 2nd Half 2013 Semiannual Monitoring Report revealed that the failed report was not disclosed in either report, although CEMEX may have reported the original incident earlier.

Three things concern us.

1.  In 2011, CEMEX paid Florida DEP over half a million dollars to settle 18 incidents involving emissions of mercury and dioxin that violated air quality standards at this plant.  Rather than retire the obsolete coal-burning plant, CEMEX was allowed to add wood to the fuel mix to reduce harmful emissions and  prevent ongoing violations.  This incident describes how CEMEX kept the plant going without wood added, polluting air quality for a total of 80 hours–equal to  3 days, 8 hours in all– when they knew that without the wood added, those emissions were probably violating air pollution laws.   DEP should shut down the coal burning plant now to prevent likely future violations.

Coal plants are the nation’s top source of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, and pollute the air with  nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, mercury emissions and other harmful pollutants as well.  This is the primary cause of global warming, a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and toxic air pollution,  and takes a major toll on public health and the environment according to the Union of Concerned Scientists and others.  (

2.   The burning of biomass such as the wood used at the Brooksville  Plant, is widely mistaken to be clean.  In fact, biomass plants produce nearly 50 percent more carbon dioxide than coal-burning plants and more than twice as much nitrogen oxide, soot, carbon monoxide and volatile organic matter as coal plants.  Worsening the problem,  many plants use contaminated waste wood, including paint-coated construction debris, all the while professing to be clean and green, according to the Partnership for Public Integrity report published last year. (  DEP should  never have allowed the raw mill to be added to this plant as part of the 2011 settlement.  This experiment has failed and it is time to shut it down.

3.  CEMEX officials recently met with Hernando County Commissioners about this incident and released a press statement that is factually inaccurate and blatantly misleading.   CEMEX  states that “The consent decree was issued in regards to an administrative error made by CEMEX  in 2014.  At no time was CEMEX out of compliance with environmental emissions or operational  limits.  The health and safety of the local community or our employees was at no time threatened.  All emission rates remained well below federal guidelines and Florida permit limits.”   Compare that to the facts provided by FL DEP above.  Not even close. This reinforces our lack of trust in CEMEX, a foreign corporation that can well afford to be responsible and upgrade its Hernando County facilities to meet state pollution laws so that no more violations of this nature occur that threaten public health.

So there you have it.  On Tuesday, May 26, Commissioner Diane Rowden will bring this up during the Hernando County Commission meeting in Brooksville.  Be there.  Speak out during Citizen Comment.  Let the commission hear the other side of this issue. Hernando County residents deserve to be protected from the air pollution of this obsolete coal burning and raw mill plant.  Ask the commissioners to recommend to FL DEP that it be shut down now while DEP and CEMEX are negotiating a resolution to this latest noncompliance.

Send your comments directly to Ana Gibbs, External Affairs Manager,  FLDEP  via email to: or via snail mail to 13051 N. Telecom Parkway, Temple Terrace, FL 33637-0926.    Thank you.

Special thanks to Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joshua November 11, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Whoever wrote this is completely mistaken. There are TWO Cement plants located in Brooksville, FL. A south plant and a north plant. The north plant does not operate and has two coal fired kilns. The south plant does operate and also has two coal fired kilns. They do not add “wood” to keep the mercury emissions down. They run the raw mill in line, with the kiln, which provides fresh material (limestone, fly ash, bauxite, iron ore) for the flue gas to pass through and “scrub”. No wood is added.

Going over a daily limit is not always a violation. The emissions are averaged though they were over the limit (barely) for a day they were WELL below the limit when it was retested and during normal operations (Raw Mill Running). So the net release from the plant over a week/month/year are going to be much lower than the limits if the plant was to run just under the limit 365 days a year. So no CEMEX was not lying about anything. They simply stated the fact and you simply don’t understand environmental permitting or a mass balance.

Lastly, I see you bring up many things you see as “Problems”, but what are your solutions? Close the plant? Put those 122 employees on the street? Where would people get building materials? I know where. China and Korea where there are no emission standards whatsoever and where jet streams carry those emissions onto American soil.

I see that you are clearly ignorant about how this process works and how cement is used for building materials. Maybe you should take some time to speak with people who work at the plant or go by the plant and request tour so you can educate yourself. I’m sure I’m one of the few educated people who’s read your article but it makes you sound extremely stupid.


Sara November 11, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Finally! Someone with some common sense. Thank you Joshua!


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