Global Portland cement producer Cemex Inc. has agreed to pay a $1.4 million federal penalty and spend $2 million for equipment to control illegal toxic emissions at its plant in Fairborn, OH.
The fine and equipment mandates are among the provisions of a settlement announced Thursday (Feb. 10) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department.
Cemex, one of the world’s largest producers of cement and concrete products, will spend about $2 million on pollution controls at the Fairborn cement plant to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2)—pollutants that can lead to childhood asthma, acid rain, and smog.
The plant has been “a major source of air pollution, and this settlement will result in a healthier environment for residents of Fairborn, Ohio, and the surrounding region,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, an assistant attorney general with the Justice Department.
The federal settlement is Cemex’s second in two years. In January 2009, the company agreed to reduce emissions and pay a $2 million fine to settle Clean Air Act violations at its cement plant in Victorville, Calif.
The current settlement addresses modifications Cemex made to its Fairborn plant without obtaining the proper permit, as required by the Clean Air Act. Major sources of air pollution are required to obtain permits that require the installation of pollution control technology before making changes that would significantly increase air emissions.
“Today’s settlement ensures that the proper pollution control equipment will be installed to reduce future emission levels,” the federal agencies said in a release.
“Air pollution from cement plants can travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.”
The new equipment will reduce annual emissions of NOx by about 2,300 tons and SO2 by about 288 tons, EPA and DOJ said.
The $1.4 million fine will be distributed among the United States, the state of Ohio, and the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency serving Ohio’s Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Preble counties.
The proposed consent decree was lodged with the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.
In a press release issued after the settlement, Cemex announced that it would install new emissions control equipment at the Ohio plant “as part of an agreement” with EPA, but the company made no mention of the $1.4 million fine.
Cemex USA Gilberto Perez said he was “pleased to have finally reached a productive solution. We remain committed to making quality cement in an environmentally sound manner.”
The statement added: “The plant is, and has always been, in compliance with its air operating permits.”
The EPA has been cracking down on air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including cement facilities. The agency’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013 continue to focus on improving compliance by major polluting industries with the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act.
In fiscal year 2010, EPA’s enforcement actions in the cement manufacturing, coal-fired power plant, glass and acid sectors led to reduction or treatment of about 370 million pounds of pollution, $1.4 billion in estimated pollution controls, and $14 million in civil penalties.
Cemex provides cement and concrete products for construction projects in the industrial, commercial, residential and municipal sectors. Its U.S. network includes 13 cement plants, 47 distribution terminals, more than 80 aggregate quarries, and more than 320 ready-mix concrete plants. The company was founded in Mexico in 1906 and has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, TX.
The company produces close to 97 million metric tons of cement, about 54 million cubic meters of ready-mix concrete, and about 168 million metric tons of aggregates annually.
Worldwide, the company operates more than 2,000 ready-mix concrete facilities and has operations at 391 aggregate quarries, 223 land-distribution centers, and 72 marine terminals.