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. (http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html#.VV-TgLNFDIV)
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. (http://grist.org/news/whats-worse-than-burning-coal-burning-wood/). 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.