UNION BRIDGE — About 100 people attended a meeting here last night to find out whether a carbon fuel the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. wants to burn in itskilns would cause cancer or damage the ozone layer.
"If it's potentially dangerous,let them go somewhere else," said Rachelle Hurwitz of Uniontown. "I don't think it should be burned here. This is the country."
Lehigh wants to burn lumps of carbon waste as an alternative fuel inits cement kilns. The carbon would be mixed with the coal the company burns.
The carbon is not considered a hazardous waste, said Donald P. Andrew of the Air Management Administration in the Maryland Department of the Environment.
An air quality and engineering review by MDEfound the carbon lumps are similar to coal and would cause no significant changes in the environment or in human health.
The "spent" carbon Lehigh wants to start burning will have had an earlier life as activated carbon at CEBA-Giegy, a plastics and dye manufacturer in New Jersey.
Even though the spent carbon is not a hazardous waste, Lehigh needs MDE approval to make any changes in what it burns.
The spent carbon would become about 1 to 2 percent of Lehigh's fuel mix, Plant Manager David H. Roush said.
Lehigh now burns primarily coal, mixed with about 5 percent waste oil and less than 1 percent waste wood chips,he said.
The Town Council requested the meeting with Lehigh and MDE officials. A public hearing to take formal testimony on Lehigh's request will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Union Bridge Community Center.
Union Bridge resident Warren C. Shirey asked Roush if the carbon would be burned in sufficient quantities to cause cancer. Roush said it would not.
Andrew said the materials burned at Lehigh also do not have the capability of damaging the ozone layer.
Resident John Scott complained that Lehigh turns off its dust collectors at night, leaving residents' cars and homes covered with dust from the plant's stacks.
Roush said the dust collectors are not turned off at night. Andrew said MDE would look into Scott's complaint.
Hurwitz asked if the state already had decided to allow Lehigh to burn the carbon.
Andrew said the company could burn the material and meet state standards, but that citizen input is important.
"We haven't made a decision, and we won'tmake a decision until we evaluate all the comments you make," he said.
In a statement at the beginning of the hearing, Roush said the company's primary job is making cement.
"We are not going to do anything to jeopardize our reputation," he said. "We are committed to producing a safe, useful product, while at the same time we share your concerns for environmental quality and the safety and well-being of ouremployees, the surrounding community and its citizens."
In another matter, the state has proposed levying a $2,000 penalty against Lehighbecause a company report submitted to MDE shows that some waste oil the company accepted in July exceeded the maximum lead content, Roushsaid.
An employee mistakenly accepted the oil, but it was combined with other oil before it was burned, so the oil that actually was burned did not exceed the lead limit, he said.
Andrew said he could not comment on the proposed penalty until the issue is resolved. Roush said Lehigh officials will meet with MDE officials next month.