Living Near Cement Plant Is…A Living


Written by Lisa Sharp

Cement is a big part of our lives. We walk on it, itís in our homes, we drive on it, itís everywhere. However, most of us rarely think about cement. This isnít the case for me. Iím always thinking about cement because there is a cement plant just over two miles away from my house.

My grandmother was a part of a group that fought the cement plant when they wanted to burn hazardous waste in the early 90ís, so I grew up knowing the plant was polluting the air. While they were able to stop the plant from burning hazardous waste, the plant did start burning tires which are still very toxic.

The local plant is on the†EPAís high priority violator of the Clean Air Act list. They have been in violation of the Clean Air Act for 12 of 12 quarters and were most recently fined just under $45,000 in July. Back in 2005 they violated over 1,000 times in one year and were only fined $321,000.

I have personally been effected by the cement plantís pollution. I have asthma. When I was young and living even closer to the plant, my asthma was even worse than when I lived outside of the city.

Another thing you will notice in my town is the amount of dust. The closer to the plant, the worse it is. Itís fine white dust that never seems to go away. I can dust in the morning and by nighttime itís already dusty again. I have to wonder whatís in that dust.

Whatís Coming Out of the Stack?

What is the plant putting into the air? One of the big things is mercury. You likely know about mercury from coal power plants, but did you know that cement plants are the third largest emitter of mercury?

There is some good news. New EPA rules, scheduled to begin September 2013, will reduce the amount of mercury cement plants can emit. They will be banned from emitting more than 55 pounds of mercury per million tons of cement produced. The EPA estimates reducing fine particle pollution from cement plants will save up to 2,500 lives each year.

The cement industry is fighting these rules. They say regulations would cost billions and force closures of some plants. However, federal regulators’ numbers are far lower than the industries numbers.

There are also bills like the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 (H.R. 2681) that threaten to allow cement plants even more freedom to pollute. This bill has passed the House but has yet to go to the Senate.

Mercury is not the only toxin coming out of the stack. They also emit things like ammonia, benzene, certain glycol ethers, chromium, diethanolamine, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, ethylene glycol, lead, manganese, sulfuric acid and zinc compounds.

Take Action

Here are some things you can do to help clean up cement plants:

  • Contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to clean up the mercury!
  • Follow groups like the Momís Clean Air Force, American Lung Association, and Earthjustice to stay up-to-date and environmental legislation.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper telling people why clean air is important. The Momís Clean Air Force has a great sample letter you can check out.


Photo credit: Glittering Shards

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federico bortoletto

Tutto molto triste.

Stephen B.
Stephen B.3 years ago

It's great that the EPA is putting the standards in place but without fines that hit violators bottom line (or force them to close the violating plant), nothing will change.

C.M Padget
Selkie Paget3 years ago

I did not realize that cements plants put out mercury, either. Mercury seems to everywhere nowadays---in the air, in our food, in our appliances....
It seems an alternative could be found for some of these.

Clothears Santa

There should be laws to protect the world

paul m.
paul m.3 years ago

noted and informed...Should be safty laws..

Bruce S.
Bruce S.3 years ago

BEWARE OF CEMENT....the silica in cement RUINED my lungs. Cement dust is deadly to humans and animals.

Ron B.
Ron B.3 years ago

Of course companies like this are going to continue polluting and breaking the law when the fines involved amount to little more than a slap on the wrist. It's just part of the cost of doing their dirty business. If it's cheaper to kill and poison people than it is to clean up their act, let the "little people" die. For the most part, the rich don't give a damn.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago


Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad3 years ago

All the silt that is so fine and easily carried through the air and inhaled by all those within close proximity are coming down with many different lung diseases.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W.3 years ago

Lisa, you have my sympathies. I live in a town in IA on the Mississippi that has a corn plant. I can only go out of the house or open windows a few days a year.

Smells like I'm drowning in a bag of dry dog food. Nauseating crap!