LYONS — Operators of the CEMEX cement plant in Lyons have not sufficiently controlled its pollutant emissions since early 2004 and may face up to $15,000 a day in fines, according to state health officials.
Workers at the plant allowed the cement kiln to exceed its maximum permitted temperature and did not take steps to cut down on dust drifting from the property, according to a notice of violation filed recently by enforcement officials.
A CEMEX spokesman could not be reached Thursday. Eric Hodek, the Lyons plant’s environmental manager, declined comment.
A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment official inspected the plant June 15, according to the notice.
CEMEX operated its cement kiln at temperatures hotter than 517 degrees, the maximum temperature permitted by state health officials. At temperatures higher than 517 degrees, the coal burned to fuel the plant’s kiln may emit unhealthy levels of dioxins, according to the report.
CDPHE based its assertions on 2004 monitoring data provided by CEMEX. The company did not submit data for 2005, according to the notice.
Additionally, cement trucks left the property without being hosed off to control dust, and an inspector found “significant visible emissions” coming from a cement silo, according to the notice. The silo’s filtration system had not been inspected weekly, as required by health officials, the notice said.
The investigation marks the latest round of controversy for CEMEX. CDPHE fined the company $280,000 in February 2004, saying the plant failed to control dust emissions from the property.
Additionally, the Sierra Club and homeowners near the plant have sued to stop CEMEX from using its permit to burn tires for fuel, saying the proposed fuel source could increase air pollution in the area.
Pam Milmoe, an air-quality official with Boulder County Public Health, said her organization is investigating CDPHE’s new claims.
She visited CEMEX on Wednesday to gather information for the inquiry.
But she stressed that health officials have not formally confirmed any violations by the plant and must give CEMEX a chance to defend its practices before leveling any sanctions.
“The notice of violation is the very first step in a process by which facts are uncovered,” she said.
CDPHE’s Air Quality Control Division will consider the matter at a hearing Oct. 20. The meeting will be closed to the public.