Lehigh Permanente Q&A

+ NoToxicAir Questions
Submitted by Lehigh Southwest Permanente 12/13/2009

  1. How do residents or media contact Lehigh Permanente Plant?

  2. What Regulatory Agencies monitor Lehigh Permanente?

  3. What role does Lehigh Permanente play in Cupertino and Santa Clara County?

  4. What is the status of Chromium 6 testing at Stevens Creek Elementary?

  5. Should the community be concerned with Chromium 6 emissions?

  6. Does Petroleum Coke have a higher level of Chromium 6 than coal?

  7. Why does the cement plant use 32 stacks instead of one central stack for better air monitoring?

  8. What are you doing to reduce mercury emissions?

  9. Are these mercury emissions safe for the community and surrounding areas?

  10. Does petroleum coke contain more mercury than coal?

  11. Where are the mercury emissions coming from?

  12. Does Permanente have all the permits required to burn petroleum coke?

  13. Is there a difference between petroleum coke and coal?

  14. Does Lehigh Permanente store petroleum coke outside?

  15. Does petroleum coke enter the storm water stream and wash into Permanente Creek?

  16. Did the plant have any increase in emissions from using coke?

  17. Is all mining approved under the current Reclamation Plan?

  18. Is all mining approved under the current Reclamation Plan?

  19. Are your mining operations getting closer to the City? Growing stockpiles are visible from the City.

  20. Are you going to reclaim the area outside the Reclamation Plan that was disturbed?

  21. The Permanente Plant submitted a Reclamation Plan in 2007 to expand into Pit 2. What is the status of this Reclamation Plan?

  22. Is Lehigh Permanente mining in Pit 2?

  23. In what other areas of your property does Lehigh Permanente plan to mine?

  24. Under Lehigh Permanente’s current Reclamation Plan, how many years of reserves does Permanente have?

  25. Are there concerns with naturally-occurring asbestos on your property?

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  1. Q: How do residents or media contact Lehigh Permanente Plant?

  2. Q: What Regulatory Agencies monitor Lehigh Permanente?

    A: The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, 
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 
    US Mine Safety and Health Administration, 
    Office of Mine Reclamation, 
    Santa Clara Valley Water District, 
    California Air Resources Board, 
    California Department of Conservation, 
    Many more.

    Q: Is mercury tracked by any of these agencies? Which ones?
    Is mercury regulated by any of these agencies?
    If so what is the regulated mercury limit (pounds/year)? 
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  3. Q: What role does Lehigh Permanente play in Cupertino and Santa Clara County?

    A:  Lehigh’s Permanente site has played - and continues to have - a critical role in the history and economic development of the Bay Area. The limestone that is naturally found in our hills is mined here, the cement is made here - and we use it to build here - and everyone benefits. 

    Lehigh’s Permanente site provides more than 70% of the cement used in Santa Clara County - and more than 50% of the cement used in the Bay Area. We have been an important local employer for decades. We currently employ geologists, operators, technicians, chemists and engineers - a skilled work force with well-paying jobs for Santa Clara County.

    The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The use of local materials, including limestone and cement, can contribute to LEED certification.

    Q: How many employees are full time employed at this plant? Top

  4. Q: What is the status of Chromium 6 testing at Stevens Creek Elementary?

    The recent EPA air monitoring study at Stevens Creek Elementary revealed that levels of Chromium 6 (also referred to as hexavalent chromium) are far lower than the screening level for health risks for short term exposures. Indeed, 7 out of 12 tests were “non-detects” where the tests were unable to measure any levels of Chromium 6. The other 5 samples collected were well below the EPA’s short term screening levels.

    Q:  Top

  5. Q: Should the community be concerned with Chromium 6 emissions?

    A: Concerns about Chromium 6 emissions have emerged in other communities in Northern California, but these emissions are not an issue for the Lehigh’s Permanente site in Cupertino.

    Chromium 6 refers to chemical compounds that contain the element chromium in the +6 oxidation state. 

    Some facilities with Chromium 6 emissions use steel slag as a raw material. Lehigh’s Permanente plant uses a mined natural iron ore material, which is lower in chromium than in the steel slag. We do not use steel slag in our manufacturing processes at the Lehigh’s Permanente quarry. 

    In fact, recent tests conducted by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) found no significant health risk to the Cupertino community from chromium 6.

    In 2008 the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) also conducted a rigorous test of our employees for workplace exposure to Chromium 6. MSHA monitored several of our employees for an eight hour working shift and all results were below both MSHA's and the more stringent OSHA's (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) exposure limits.

    Q:  Top

  6. Q: Does Petroleum Coke have a higher level of Chromium 6 than coal?

    A: No. Petroleum coke has lower levels of Chromium 6 than coal. We routinely test for chromium 6 and all results are well below the detection limit of 0.05 ppm (parts per million). Locally produced Petroleum coke has a lower carbon foot print than coal.

    Q:  Top

  7. Q: Why does the cement plant use 32 stacks instead of one central stack for better air monitoring?

    A: The existing original kiln dust collector contains 32 individual compartments with their own exhaust fans and stacks. Lehigh may propose the installation of a single dust collector, which will be compartmentalized, with a single dust collector fan and single stack. This will allow for enhanced monitoring of PM and other gaseous pollutants. The new stack could be mounted to or near the side of the existing preheater tower.

    Q: A single stack allows more accurate monitoring of pollutants, better pollutant dispersion, and safety to employees from pollutants.
    Will Lehigh install a single stack?
    If so then When?
    Where is the dust collected in the bag house disposed? 
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  8. Q: What are you doing to reduce mercury emissions?

    A: EPA will set a new final rule for the cement industry in June 2010. That rule will set new emission standards for mercury, hydrochloric acid, total hydrocarbons and particulates. The rule will become effective June 2013. With this new rule in mind, Lehigh has worked since the summer of 2009 to significantly reduce mercury emissions using new technologies. We’ll be introducing these technologies to our facility in Cupertino. The technologies include:

    Q: What will be the upper limit of mercury emitted using this technology (pounds/year)?
    When will this technology be effectively in operation (date)?
    Will mercury be continuously monitored real time and reported to the various agencies? 
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  9. Q: Are these mercury emissions safe for the community and surrounding areas?

    A: The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has determined that mercury emissions from this plant remain at a safe level and do not pose significant health risks to the community.

    Q: What is the upper limit of mercury currently permitted by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (pounds/year)?  Top

  10. Q: Does petroleum coke contain more mercury than coal?

    A: No. Petroleum coke has less mercury than coal.

    Q: Please provide the scientific data for this answer. Top

  11. Q: Where are the mercury emissions coming from?

    A: Mercury enters into the cement making process from the naturally occurring concentrations within the local limestone source.

    Q: What is the content of mercury in the limestone?  Top

  12. Q: Does Permanente have all the permits required to burn petroleum coke?

    A: Yes – The plant has been approved for the use of coke as a fuel source since 1985. In 2006, Lehigh’s Permanente facility submitted a permit application to increase the amount of coke usage. After reviewing our permit applications and performing the necessary emission screening calculations, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) agreed to our application, issuing a modification in the plant’s Permit to Operate. The plant has all required permits for the storage and use of petroleum coke.

    Q: 

  13. Q: Is there a difference between petroleum coke and coal?

    A: Coal is extracted from the ground and coke is a by-product of the petroleum refining industry. Petroleum Coke used at this site and is a recycled product from local sources. That means coke has a lower carbon footprint than coal. 

    Q: Where does this source of petroleum coke come from? Top

  14. Q: Does Lehigh Permanente store petroleum coke outside?

    A: Yes. But we maintain both covered storage areas and small amounts of uncovered storage areas, which has been our practice since 1980’s. All uncovered coke storage areas must meet a minimum moisture content to control fugitive dust from leaving the pile.

    Q: How much petroleum coke is actually stored outside (weight or volume)?
    Is it covered or open to the sky? 
    Top

  15. Q: Does petroleum coke enter the storm water stream and wash into Permanente Creek?

    A: No, and we take every precaution to prevent this.

    Q: What are the precautions employed to assure that it does not enter Permanente Creek? Top

  16. Q: Did the plant have any increase in emissions from using coke?

    A: No, In fact, source tests showed an overall decrease in criteria pollutants (SOx, NOx, PM, CO, etc) between a 2004 stack test and the more recent 2007 stack test. Stack testing done in 2009 at the request from US EPA resulted in similar results.

    Q: Please provide the scientific data for this answer from both your 2004 stack test and 2007 stack test.  Top

  17. Q: The plant was issued an NOV in 2008 by the county for mining outside their approved Reclamation Plan. What is the status of this matter?

    A: The County’s June 20, 2008 Notice of Violation was based on “areas of disturbance outside of the approved reclamation plan boundary,” identified as the East Materials Storage Area (EMSA). 

    The EMSA is situated on a parcel of land on our property that historically has been used to stockpile material from the quarry. Aerial photographs beginning in the 1940s show continually progressive material stockpiling in the EMSA.

    In October 2006, the County issued the facility an order and a schedule for compliance (collectively, “Order”) which required Lehigh’s Permanente site to update the reclamation plan and include all areas of disturbance within the amendment. The County has periodically updated the Order; the most recent update was dated May 21, 2008. Lehigh has fully complied with the Order’s requirements, and Lehigh’s reclamation plan amendment is currently being processed by the County. 

    At Lehigh’s Permanente site, we are committed to mining with minimal impact on the environment. We are currently preparing a re-vegetation plan for the County, to show how native plants and tree growth will blend the area into the natural surroundings. 

    We’ve already developed test plots and performed chemical analysis of the soil. This will guide us in introducing plants and ground cover on the EMSA site that will grow naturally and blend into the Cupertino hillside. The EMSA stockpiles will, when completed, effectively screen the Permanente plant operations from Valley floor views, offering a new benefit to the community. 

    If you look at the hillside today, you’ll notice that the main pit is not visible. This is a result of reclamation efforts more than 20 years ago when we created an additional barrier to mask our operations and preserve the beautiful view of the Santa Clara hills. This barrier was gradually built up in the early 1980s and has blended nicely into the surrounding hills.

    Q: Are you setting aside adequate funds to fully fund the reclamation plan?
    If so how much have you set aside ($)? 
    Top

  18. Q: Is all mining approved under the current Reclamation Plan?

    A: The current reclamation plan approval was not designed to encompass all mining activities at Permanente. The County has acknowledged that active areas of disturbance existed outside of the reclamation boundaries when the reclamation plan was approved, consistent with how the County interpreted SMARA in March 1985. Additionally, the Order allows Lehigh’s Permanente site to continue operating in disturbed areas while the new reclamation plan amendment is processed.

    Q: Was this mining beyond the reclamation boundaries started before informing the County and obtaining a permit or after the permit was obtained?  Top

  19. Q: Are your mining operations getting closer to the City? Growing stockpiles are visible from the City.

    A: The EMSA stockpiles will, when completed, effectively screen Lehigh’s Permanente plant operations from Valley floor views, offering a new benefit to the community. We are also currently preparing a revegetation plan for the County, to show how native plant and tree growth will blend the exposed areas into the natural surroundings. Lehigh, with the assistance of biologists, landscape professionals and geotechnical engineers, is updating this design.

    Mining is not getting “closer to the City.” The visible area on the east side of Lehigh’s property, also known as the EMSA, is a location where Lehigh stockpiles rock and earthen material. As noted, we have used this location for stockpiling for decades. Pursuant to the County’s requirements, the area will be included within the reclamation plan amendment now being processed by the County.

    Q: When will this reclamation be started and when will it be completed?
    Will it be done exactly as documented by the Reclamation Plan? 
    Top

  20. Q: Are you going to reclaim the area outside the Reclamation Plan that was disturbed?

    A: Yes. The County is currently processing our reclamation plan to encompass all areas used at any time by Lehigh or its predecessors, and include additional “buffer” areas.

    Q: Why was this area disturbed?
    Were these disturbed areas done with a permit prior to mining? 
    Top

  21. Q: The Permanente Plant submitted a Reclamation Plan in 2007 to expand into Pit 2. What is the status of this Reclamation Plan?

    A: It is still in process. The County has established a detailed schedule for processing Lehigh’s reclamation plan amendment. Under the current schedule, Lehigh’s Permanente site will file an updated reclamation plan amendment with the County in May 2010.

    Q: When will you know if you can mine further west and further away from populated areas?
    Will you announce these areas to the public once you know? 
    Top

  22. Q: Is Lehigh Permanente mining in Pit 2?

    A: Not at this time. Lehigh continues to operate a rock processing plant in the location of the proposed Pit 2. The plant has operated in this location since it was approved in 1956. At the request of the community, received at our August 2007 Open House, we’ve been exploring alternate reserved further to the west – and 

    Q: When will you know if you can mine further west and further away from populated areas?
    Will you announce these areas to the public once you know? 
    Top

  23. Q: In what other areas of your property does Lehigh Permanente plan to mine?

    A: Currently, Lehigh Permanente is actively using 618 acres out of 3,500 acres of our total property. Thousands of acres remain undisturbed habitat. 

    Lehigh will, in the future, move its mining operations to other portions of its property. We are currently investigating a number of potential extraction areas, including in the western portions of its property located farther away from residential areas. 

    Q: Is it possible that Lehigh will mine closer to inhabited area?  Top

  24. Q: Under Lehigh Permanente’s current Reclamation Plan, how many years of reserves does Permanente have?

    A: Our projection of reserves is proprietary information and protected from disclosure by state law. We can say, however, that since what we make here is used here – local production is a good thing for the Bay Area, its environment and its economy.

    Q: How is what you do good for the environment?
    Does your reclamation plan totally return the mined areas to its natural and sustainable state? 
    Top

  25. Q: Are there concerns with naturally-occurring asbestos on your property?

    A: Naturally-occurring asbestos (NOA) is not a concern at the Permanente site. While the site lies within a mapped ultramafic geologic unit, third-party reviews indicate that the underlying geology is not a type likely to produce NOA. 

    Moreover, between 1981 and 2007, the Permanente site was tested on numerous occasions for the presence of NOA in response to community requests and regulatory directives. None of these investigations revealed any evidence of NOA at the site. 

    In December 2007, the Air Resources Board and Bay Area Air Quality Management District questioned whether Lehigh Permanente should be required to comply with the Air Toxic Control Measures (ATCM) relating to NOA. Lehigh responded with a formal geologic review, and by conducting additional testing of site materials. No evidence of NOA could be found, and the Air Resources Board confirmed, accordingly, that the ATCMs did not apply.

    Q: What is the data for asbestos content on Lehigh property? Top

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