cement plant raises issues




Pueblo citizens are facing a battle. It¡¦s a battle between common citizens and those who are in favor of economic development to decide on whether a cement plant will call Pueblo its new home. It¡¦s a battle to join together in order to educate those individuals in charge about how building a cement plant would cause more harm than create jobs. It¡¦s a battle between the average citizen, concerned about their health and the environment, and the elected official, confident that their influence will bring in a new business for the better of the community.
Rio Grande Portland Cement Corp. is planning to build a $160 million, highly automated cement plant 8 miles south of town. In September of 1999, the Pueblo County Planning Commission approved a special-use permit allowing the company to build its mining and manufacturing plant on 6,000 acres southeast of Pueblo. Thereafter, if all the necessary permits are acquired, Rio Grande would be expected to build a cement plant off Lime Road, east of the Stem Beach exit on Interstate 25. (citation here)
The special-use permit, however, carried 21 restrictions. Some restrictions include:
„h copies of all license applications and regulatory reports are to be given to the county;
„h no blasting in the limestone quarry would be permitted between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. and none on Sundays;
„h no retail sales are permitted without an amendment to the use permit;
„h violation of any permit can cause the county to consider revoking the special-use permit;
„h Rio Grande could not use more than 70 acres of land at a given time;
„h Rio Grande could not burn tires or any hazardous material in its kiln without amending the permit, which would require a new application and public hearing. (citation here)
This permit, however, was only the beginning of the battle that caused citizens to voice their concerns about Pueblo¡¦s air quality as well as their own health risks.
Resident, Cecil Ross, who owns about 200 acres approximately one mile from the proposed site, believes that the cement plant would be ¡§devastating to us and the wildlife that lives there.¡¨ He voiced his concerns about the vegetation and wildlife at a local press conference held by Neil Carman. A former Texas air quality inspector, Carman was brought to Pueblo by opponents of the plant to help educate citizens about the dangers of having a cement plant close in proximity. (citation here).
Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Pueblo/Southern Colorado have pointed out that the company¡¦s own permit states that it will release about 6 million pounds of pollutants into the air each year. In fact, Rio Grande¡¦s application draft for a Colorado air quality control permit states that the plant would emit 160 tons per year of particulate pollution (which averages to about 35 pounds escaping into the air each day), 150 tons of very small particulates, 1,000 tons of oxides of nitrogen, 944 tons of sulfur dioxide and about 1,000 tons of carbon monoxide. (citation here)
At first, Rio Grande submitted a draft application asking that the plant be allowed to produce 1 million tons of cement a year in order to meet the demand for the product. Now, information taken from an article by The Pueblo Chieftain Online states the company has submitted an amendment to their permit asking that the plant be allowed to manufacture 100 million tons of cement per year, increasing its volume of emissions as well.
Rio Grande¡¦s vice president of operations, Ron Hedrick, claims that ¡§the only cloud that anyone would see over our operation would be the water vapor on a cold day¡¨ (citation here). In fact, the many pollutants that would be emitted by the cement plant would be highly invisible, toxins that will eventually end up causing many heath related problems for people who already suffer from asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis as well as pneumonia.
Statistics taken from a South Carolina study reported 50 to 100% greater prevalence of coughing phlegm, wheezing, sore throat and eye irritation among the population. Another study found more cases of diagnosed emphysema, sinus trouble, and bronchitis cough in populations that are living downwind of a hazardous waste incinerator. (citation here). In extreme cases, a 1989 British study reported a ¡§marked