Mercury News Coverage of the Lehigh Information Session

As reported by the Mercury News in their article entitled Cupertino: Residents get update on Lehigh Cement Plant from Supervisor Simitian, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian hosted the second annual community meeting on Nov. 16, 2016 to update area residents about the Lehigh Cement Plant, located close to Cupertino and many surrounding communities. 

In addition to more than a hundred residents attending, the meeting was attended by representatives from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, Santa Clara County Planning and Development Department, Santa Clara Valley Water District, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Santa Clara County Counsel and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In 2014, Simitian first requested an increase in oversight of Lehigh, whose cement quarry and plant are located in the foothills of unincorporated Santa Clara County just outside Cupertino city limits and city jurisdiction.  The meeting was designed to allow all of the agencies to talk with each other and answer residents’ questions and concerns.

As reported by the Mercury, “most questions from residents centered on environmental concerns related to the facility: water pollution, air pollution and particulates in the air.”

Simitian asked Wayne Kino, director of compliance and enforcement with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, if a new stack that was installed at the cement facility is helping with air quality. Lehigh converted its more than 32 stacks into a single stack, Kino told the audience.

“What the stack did for us, and for you, was put all emissions into one location where Lehigh could install monitors to monitor what is coming out of their process,” he said. “In that, it gave us certainty in what is coming out.”

Kino said overall, the emissions situation at Lehigh is better than it was last year. He said the new stack is also higher, which causes more dispersion and waft, meaning fewer emissions reach the ground level.

As far as particulate matter settling on cars in neighborhoods near the facility, Kino said Lehigh developed a dust mitigation plan, and a “fugitive dust rule” is also in the works for the Bay Area at large, which would affect Lehigh. He said much of the dust is probably caused by trucks hauling materials in and out of the facility. He added that particulate matter can be a health risk to susceptible individuals such as children and seniors.

Some residents claimed that noise from Lehigh has increased since the new stack went in, especially between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Michael Balliet, director of the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, said since January, the department has gone to Lehigh 10 times to monitor noise levels in neighborhoods around the plant.

Two of those times, the facility was in violation, and the department issued citations.

So, there is some good progress but a lot more left to accomplish. These agencies only seem to act in response to pressure from the community.

To read the full Mercury article by , click here:Cupertino: Residents get update on Lehigh Cement Plant from Supervisor Simitian.

Lehigh Public Informational Meeting Video from November 16, 2016

Lehigh Public Information Meeting, November 16, 2016

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Lehigh reaches settlement with EPA on latest violation

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Lehigh Southwest Cement Company for failing to properly report releases of toxic chemicals at its Cupertino, Calif. plant. The company is required to pay a $47,600 penalty and spend $144,250 to fund projects that support local emergency response and limit future releases from the plant.

http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/B8B1665FA705DA1A85257EC8006CF367

EPA fines Lehigh $2.55 million for violating Clean Water Act

On April 29, the EPA announced that to settle charges that it dumped millions of gallons of toxic waste water into Permanente Creek, the Lehigh Southwest Cement Company will pay $2.55 million in civil penalties to the government and will spend an additional $5 million to install an advanced waste water treatment plant to treat the polluted water discharged into the creek.

In announcing the settlement, EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld gave credit to local citizens groups like BACE for calling attention to Lehigh’s actions which were illegal under the Clean Water Act, leading to this settlement. In fact, BACE, along with the Sierra Club, was instrumental in bringing a successful citizen’s action again Lehigh for polluting the creek which triggered the EPA’s response.

During the press conference, Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said:

“By bringing this older facility up to contemporary standards, and by pushing it to introduce cutting-edge treatment technology, the Department of Justice and our partners are helping create a level playing field, where all industry members are held to the same standards and no company can gain an economic advantage over its competitors by shortchanging environmental compliance. “

Many links to this story:

Mercury News   |  SFGATE  |  KTVU ABC7NEWS  |  KRON4  |  EPA

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World Journal (Chinese)  |  Sing-Tao USA (Chinese)