EPA proposes mercury cutbacks at cement plants

Following law suits from environmental groups and nine states, the EPA has proposed new regulations that would cut mercury emissions from kilns by more than 80%.


Associated Press reports that the Obama administration has proposed sharp reductions in airborne pollution from America's 99 cement plants, including first-ever limits on mercury from older kilns.
The rules also would lead to steep cuts in emissions of other toxins, including hydrochloric acid, hydrocarbons, soot and sulfur dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency . EPA

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) logo

proposed the regulations under court order after environmental groups and nine states sued, accusing the agency of shirking its duty under the Clean Air Act to regulate the cement industry's emissions. The rules would cover 163 kilns in 35 states. A couple dozen others, which burn hazardous waste, would be regulated separately.
Cement plants are America's fourth-largest source of airborne mercury, generating about 23,000 pounds (10,400 kilograms) a year, EPA says. Mercury is generated from raw materials such as limestone and some fuels used to heat the kilns that bake cement, a key ingredient in concrete.
EPA issued standards for mercury and hydrocarbons in 2006. But these standards applied only to kilns built after Dec. 2, 2005, so most kilns then operating were exempt.
EPA estimates the proposed rules would slash mercury emissions from the kilns by 81 percent to 93 percent. The agency also predicted drop-offs of greater than 90 percent in hydrochloric acid, which would be regulated for the first time, as well as soot.
Hydrocarbon emissions would fall by about three-quarters, the agency said. Although not covered by the rules, sulfur dioxide also could drop up to 90 percent because it would be filtered out by the same technology that controls hydrochloric acid.
The proposed rule is expected to be published soon and will become final a year from then unless revised. EPA will have a 60-day public comment period and a hearing if requested. Once the regulations are final, the industry would have three years to comply by taking steps such as installing pollution control devices or changing ingredients or fuels.

– Edited by David Greenfield , editorial director

Control Engineering News Desk

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