About thirty people, including County Commissioner Diane Rowden, made the drive to The Lake House for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection open house on the Proposed Permit for the CEMEX Brooksville South Cement Plant. Many people questioned why there was not a meeting format where we could hear a presentation explaining the permit to us as a group. Instead, it was simply a room with a check-in table with sign-in and comment forms, a table for the permitting representatives and a second table for the enforcement and compliance representations, with a few displays in the center of the room about the process of making cement and others about the local environmental from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and a table with iced water.
After figuring out the unusual format, those who came asked questions, submitted written comments, that were added to a very full notebook of earlier comments sent in, and listened as FL-DEP representatives answered. Most did not stay very long once they had shared their concerns with the representatives and greeted friends in the room. David Read responded to questions regarding the proposed permit and accepted comments. Cindy Falanysz and Danielle Henry replied to queries on compliance and enforcement issues. Public Affairs Director Ana Gibbs was there along with Kelly Bishop, Assistant Director of the Southwest District, who listened to many people ask her why the hearing was not held near the actual plant in Brooksville. She agreed to hold the next one, if there is a next one, in Brooksville. The deputy director of the Southwest District of FL-DEP also attended and helped respond to inquiries. A CEMEX environmental compliance representation attended as well.
Diane Oriza set up a virtual link from the Neighbors Against Mining website so that those unable to attend could see David Read answer questions. Bob Howell, Tina Henize, Ellen Paul, Mary Ellen Urban, Rosemarie Grubba, Jennifer Sullivan, Brian Moore, Lisa Baumgartner and her husband, Pat and Shirley Miketinac, Barbara Bartlett & friends, Paul Douglas and Tony Marra were among those present. Rikki Sanders arrived with her children, who quietly occupied themselves at a corner table. DeeVon Quirolo, on behalf of Neighbors Against Mining, submitted additional comments and studies on the pollution loads, health rankings for Hernando, and related studies to further back up our earlier claims that the plant is a hazard to public health. Thanks to all!
We accomplished a lot by letting FL-DEP know that many citizens in Hernando are willing to take their time to show up and express their concerns about the public health threat that the coal- and biomass-burning plants represent, given it’s abysmal past record of mercury emissions violations. Whether it actually results in a change to the narrow parameters of this permit is another question. FL-DEP will post all the comments and respond to them online at some point, along with the final permit.
The permit will be extended, in whatever final form emerges, until 2018, although portions of the compliance schedule include deadlines within an 8- and 12-month period for the two kilns at the cement plant. A new continuous emissions monitoring system will be installed on one of the kilns to provide real-time monitoring that will shorten the reporting and response time in the event of higher than legal emissions. New regulations incorporated into this permit are supposed to result in reduced harmful emissions, we are told. Thanks to all the FL-DEP staff who made the trip to Spring Hill to meet with us; it was greatly appreciated. Hopefully, they will remember our concerns when faced with future decisions about Hernando County.