Cement

Recent and Upcoming

► In June 2012, EPA is expected to make last-minute changes in the new cement plant MACT standards that Downwinders and others have worked almost two decades to pass. Rumors suggest these changes will include a loosening of the Particulate Matter emissions standard and an extension for compliance until November 2015.

► The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is taking public comment on its continuing "health consultation" in Midlothian until June 22nd. Send comments to: ATSDRRecordsCenter@cdc.gov,

► Ash Grove made it official and announced in May of 2012 that they had signed a construction contract to tear down two of their three obsolete Midlothian wet kilns and convert the third to dry technology by 2014. This is a huge victory for the six-year "Green Cement" campaign Downwinders had organized to financially isolate the operators of older wet kilns by having local governments purchase their cement from newer, cleaner kilns.

► In the summer of 2011, TXI obtained a permit to burn a variety of industrial wastes at its Midlothian cement plant, including plastic garbage and car interiors and parts. It got the permit without any public notice or hearing.

BACKGROUND

Downwinders was founded in the early 1990’s to bring an end to the burning of hazardous wastes at all three cement plants located in Midlothian, directly south, and upwind of Dallas and Ft. Worth.

TXI, Holcim and Ash Grove all operate huge plants that mine the local limestone and power their giant kilns with a combination of traditional fuels and wastes. Located only a few miles from one another, they make-up the largest concentration of cement manufacturing in the U.S. They’re also the largest industrial sources of air pollution in DFW.

When Downwinders at Risk began, eight cement kilns were operating in Midlothian: seven of them obsolete wet kilns from the 1960’s and four burning hazardous waste. In 2014, there will be 4 cement kilns: none of them wet kilns and none of them burning hazardous waste.

Ash Grove quit burning hazardous wastes in the early 1990’s and for six years Downwinders fought TXI in the most expensive and longest hazardous waste permit battle in Texas history, ultimately losing in 1999. But we didn’t quit. Instead we kept trying to find ways to reduce cement plant pollution. And we slowly but surely succeeded.

In 2000, Downwinders challenged a new permit by Holcim’s cement plant that doubled air pollution.  We won the first advanced controls to ever be installed in a U.S. cement plant. Those controls cut pollution at Holcim by more than 50% over two years.  They are now standard equipment on all new U.S. cement plants.

In 2006, we fought hard to get smog controls for all three cement plants included in the DFW clean air plan. This increased pressure on the older, dirtier kilns to modernize.  Downwinders began its “Campaign for Green Cement” to close the seven dirty and obsolete wet kilns in Midlothian. Over the next three years, Dallas, Arlington, Plano, Denton, Ft. Worth and Tarrant County all pledged not to buy cement from wet kilns. In 2010, TXI abandoned its four wet kilns and stopped burning hazardous waste. Today, it operates a single dry kiln built in 2000.

In January 2012, Ash Grove Cement submitted a new permit to close and convert the last wet cement kilns in Texas. In its application Ash Grove stated the move would eliminate over 100,000 tons of air pollution a year by 2014.

You can read a more detailed account of our long struggle to reduce the volume and toxicity of air pollution from with the Midlothian cement plants on the” About” page of this website.

Despite giving up the burning of waste officially classified as “hazardous,” all three Midlothian cement plants are still burning other kinds of industrial wastes for fuel. In 2011, TXI’s plant was granted a “permit amendment” to burn seven new kinds of fuels including plastics garbage, car “fluff” (all the non-steel parts of a junked car, including the dashboard containing heavy metals, seats, brakes with asbestos, and PCB-laced electronics), “liquid wastes,” and tires. In essence, this permit turns TXI into a garbage-burner. Six million people live downwind of one big landfill in the sky.

Burning plastics and car fluff are known sources of Dioxin emissions – one of the most potent poisons that EPA has ever studied. By TXI's own admission, the changes in its permit will result in large emissions increases in major pollutants:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) will increase by over 500 tons a year.
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) will increase over 1000 tons a year.
  • Sulfur Dioxides (SOx) will increase by 700 tons a year.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) will increase by 30 tons a year to 67 tons annually.
  • Total Suspended Particulates (TSP) will increase by 75 tons per year.
  • Particulate Matter10 microns or less (PM10) will increase by 93 tons a year.
  • Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4) will increase over 35 tons a year.

In total, TXI received a 2011 permit amendment that would increase pollution from Kiln 5 by at least 2525 tons, or 5 million pounds, a year. And given the instability of the fuels it wants to burn, and how it wants to burn them, that’s probably a very large underestimate.

In Texas, this change in plant emissions did not require any public notice, public hearing, or any form of public participation. Citizens found out about it after the fact.

As of January 2012, Ash Grove had applied for a “permit amendment” of its own that would finally close the last wet kilns in Texas and replace them with a single modern dry technology kiln. And again, according to the state, citizens do not have a right to public notice or a hearing or participation of any kind. A company can literally rebuild its facility from the ground up without going through a public permitting process.

All three Midlothian cement plants will eventually be required to meet stricter new EPA emission standards for a variety of pollutants. Downwinders was a leader in the more than decade-long fight to get these standards implemented.

Downwinders continues to monitor the permits and emissions of all three cement plants, as well as the Ameristeel steel mill that’s also a substantial polluter in Midlothian, and find ways to reduce toxic air pollution from all of these facilities.