Listen To Residents' Pleas, State Told At Carbon Waste Hearing

January 27, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

UNION BRIDGE — County Commissioner President Donald I. Dell seemed to sum up the sentiment of the angry, worried crowd that gathered here Friday.

"We don't like to be dumped on by big business," he said, as more than 100 people applauded.

Residents opposed to a Lehigh Portland Cement Co. plan to burn carbon waste in its kilns turned out in force for the second time last week, as the Maryland Department of the Environment took testimony Friday night at a formal hearing at the Union Bridge Community Center.

The state and Lehigh had answered residents' questions about the plan for four hours Tuesday.

Lehigh wants to burn lumps of carbon waste as an alternative fuel in its cement kilns. The carbon would be mixed with coal.

The state Air Management Administration said the carbon is similar to coal, is not hazardous and would not cause any significant changes in the environment.

The carbon would become about 1 to 2 percent of Lehigh's fuel mix, said David H. Roush, the plant manager.

The waste material would come from a chemical company in Toms River, N.J., which uses the substance in its waste water treatment process.

CIBA-GEIGY, a Swiss company whose U.S. headquarters are in Ardsley, N.Y., makes chemicals, pharmaceuticals and vision-care products. At its New Jersey plant, it standardizes, or matches, dyes that are manufacturered at other company sites, said Glenn S. Ruskin, a company spokesman.

The carbon comes out of the treatment process free of contaminants and is now disposed of in a landfill on company property, he said.

CIBA-GEIGY has had run-ins with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said James Staples, a department spokesman.

"We've had years of litigation and enforcement problems with them," he said.

In 1987, the company was fined $1.45million after the state found it had buried a hazardous waste on itsproperty, had discharged polluted water into the Atlantic Ocean and had contaminated ground water, Staples said.

CIBA-GEIGY has been making improvements the state required, he said.

Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. said county officials have no control over whether Lehigh gets the permit to burn carbon waste. He asked state officials to consider residents' pleas.

"I know you folks have to go by regulations, and the law is the law. But no one says you can't exercise compassion. These folks are scared.

"I am disturbed on a human basis that so many employees of Lehigh, former and present, would protest this proposal," he added.

James E. Slater, director of the county Department of Natural Resource Protection, called the carbon "industrial waste treatment sludge," and said if the state allows Lehigh to burn it, the state should require continuous monitoring of emissions from the stacks, a controlled storage area for the carbonbefore it's burned and more complete testing of the material when itarrives at the plant.

Roush testified, "We are proposing to manage this waste with the best available technology."

Union Bridge resident Julian Stein has helped form a citizens group called Residents for a Healthier Union Bridge Environment, or "Outraged Citizens Unlimited," he said.

Damian Halstad of Westminster, an attorney hired by the group, said, "No one denies the important role Lehigh has played in the history of Union Bridge. Lehigh's profits, however, have been earned by the sweat of many of these people here tonight, and Lehigh has an obligation to protect this community from the potentially devastating byproducts of its business operations."

Union Bridge Councilman Scott W. Davis, who retired in October after 43 years at Lehigh, said state officials "haven't done enough homework" in regard to the permit application and CIBA-GEIGY.

Susan S. G. Wierman, deputydirector of the Air Management Administration, said the state will decide whether to issue the permit within 60 days. Residents may submit testimony until Feb. 1.

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