MAC: Mines and Communities

Cement Plants Face First Limits on Mercury Emissions

Published by MAC on 2009-04-27
Source: ENS (2009-04-21)

Washington DC - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to set the nation's first limits on mercury emissions from existing Portland cement kilns and strengthen the limits for new kilns.

The proposal would reduce mercury emissions from Portland cement kilns, the fourth-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. The proposed standards also would set emission limits for total hydrocarbons, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide from cement kilns of all sizes, and would reduce hydrochloric acid emissions from kilns that are large emitters.

"We can save more than a thousand lives each year, sharply reduce mercury and other toxins in our air and water, and work with industry to encourage innovations and good ideas that are already out there," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

"Mercury and other chemicals flowing into these communities are health hazards for children, pregnant mothers, local residents and workers - people who deserve protection," Jackson said. Mercury emitted into the air eventually falls into water, where it changes into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish. Americans are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish.

Because the developing fetus is the most sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, women of childbearing age and children are regarded as the population of greatest concern.

The majority of the toxic emissions at cement kilns come from the burning of fuels and heating of raw materials. When fully implemented in 2013, EPA estimates that this rule would reduce annual emissions by at least:

• Mercury 11,600 pounds, a reduction of 81 percent
• Total hydrocarbons 11,700 tons, or 75 percent
• Particulate matter - 10,500 tons, or 96 percent
• Hydrochloric acid - 2,800 tons, or 94 percent
• Sulfur dioxide - 160,000 tons, or 90 percent

EPA estimates the benefits of this proposed rule will outweigh costs. The proposal is in response to a request to reconsider the December 2006 emissions standards for Portland cement manufacturing facilities. EPA will take public comments on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing on the proposal if one is requested. Hearing requests must be received within 15 days of publication in the Federal Register.

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