A cement plant in Tehachapi, California, constantly releases mercury and other toxins into the air, and has been for decades. The Lehigh Southwest Cement plant has released the most mercury toxins in California, and is ranked the second highest in the United States. Inside the plant, workers burn coal to cook limestone mined from the nearby hillside at more than 2,600 degrees. Both materials contain mercury, which then escapes into the atmosphere. Once in the air, scientists say, the mercury settles on the ground and contaminates the soil and water – and, eventually, fish that are eaten by humans. Asthma and cardiovascular diseases are just a couple examples of the effects of pollutants into the air, etc.
The Obama administration and EPA promised to impose strict limits on some of the most harmful pollutants emitted from cement plants, but this move is long overdue. The new rules are scheduled to begin in September 2013, which will require plants emitting no more than 55 pounds of mercury per million tons of cement produced. Unfortunately, this will not fully prevent mercury from leaking into the air, water, and soil.
Article Title: Calif. Cement Plant Has One of Nation’s Highest Mercury Emission Levels, Source: California Watch, February 8, 2012.
Author: Sam Pearson
Student Researcher: Lauren Shepard, Sonoma State University
Faculty Advisor: Sheila Katz, Sonoma State University