The Alpena News has published information on the proposed MDEQ permit for the Lafarge cement plant here in Alpena Michigan and pubic hearings on it. It will allow Lafarge to emit 567 pounds of mercury per year. The original permit limit was for 390 pounds per year. Lafarge sued the MDEQ to have the mercury limit removed even though they agreed to that limit to get a production increase. Stack test required for approval of the permit showed that Lafarge has been emitting over 580 pounds per year for quite some time. We were concerned that the 20% production increase would add another 116 pounds of mercury per year making Lafarge the #1 emitter of mercury in the state. What really concerns us is the sellout of the people of northeast Michigan by the MDEQ to Lafarge.
The original permit had a worse case scenario of 570 pounds of mercury emissions per year with 30% of the mercury remaining in the cement or waste cement kiln dust leaving 390 pound per year into our environment. That 390 pounds was supposed to be a safe limit and you guessed it, 567 pounds is now a safe limit. Especially for those who write the permits to pollute. They do not live here.
To show just how toxic mercury is there are 453.6 grams in a pound. ONE Gram will contaminate a 20 acre lake enough to warrant a fish eating advisory. 453.6 x 567 equals over 257,000 grams every year until 2010 . The EPA already has our watershed exceeded for mercury limits and this should take care of any that has been missed.
Another matter of concern is that Thunder Bay here in Alpena is a National Marine Sanctuary and is becoming a very important part of our tourism. It is re-licensed every five years and pollution could play an important part in weather it is re-ticence.
We think that every environmental group in Michigan should demand a public hearing to coincide with those in Alpena. This issue is too important for the people of this state if they expect the MDEQ to represent the people rather than the big polluters.
Bill Freese, Director
Huron Environmental Activist League