UNION BRIDGE — Don't let a cement company's plans to burn hazardous waste divide the town, a Washington consultant told residents last week.
"It's a small town and a beautiful area. You shouldn't get divided," said Edward W. Kleppinger, a former chemistry professor who opposes burning hazardous wastes in cement kilns.
"Please, folks, I go to so many communities, and I see people getting angry and upset. Don't do that. Work it out," he said.
Kleppinger, who now works as an environmental consultant for industry, spoke to about 60 people Wednesday night at the Union Bridge Community Center. He was asked to speak by the citizens group Residents for a Healthier Union Bridge Area.
Lehigh Portland Cement Co. here has asked the state for permission to burn a non-hazardous carbon fuel and hazardous waste solvents. The state is studying the company's applications, but has not decided whether permits should be issued.
The applications riled some residents, who already were concerned about emissions from the company's smokestacks. Last month, Lehigh was cited bythe Maryland Department of the Environment for illegal emissions. A $20,000 fine is pending.
Kleppinger said cement kilns are designedto make cement, not burn hazardous wastes.
"You can't serve two masters equally effectively," he said.
Because of its potential effects on the environment, hazardous wastes should be burned in specially designed incinerators, Kleppinger said.
In the 1970s, he workedfor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when it was developing regulations for hazardous waste. He also has worked as an environmental director for two corporations. He has a Ph.D. in science educationand taught at Pfeiffer College in North Carolina.
Since 1974, he has been a "free-lance consultant," but said he has not worked directly for any incineration companies.
He did not charge RHUBA for histalk Wednesday.
Most hazardous waste in the United States is disposed of at the site where it's generated, Kleppinger said. Other waste should be burned at commercial hazardous-waste incinerators, which are regulated by the EPA, he said.
Cement kilns fall through a federal "loophole" and are not monitored by the EPA if they burn hazardous waste as a fuel, he said.
New EPA regulations take effect in August, however, that will subject cement kilns that burn hazardous wastes to the same standards as hazardous-waste incinerators.
"Hazardous wastes all flow downhill to the least-regulated option," Kleppinger said. "They go to the cheapest disposal site, which is a cement kiln."
The cement industry says a kiln is a better place to destroy hazardous wastes because it is 30 percent hotter than a commercial waste incinerator. Kilns also are larger than incinerators, which meanswastes will be in a kiln longer and therefore more thoroughly consumed than they would be in an incinerator, the industry says.
The chemical process that takes place in a cement kiln also ensures that traces of waste become part of the clinker, a byproduct of burning thatbecomes part of the cement, an industry publication says.
Trace amounts of metals become "chemically locked up" in the cement and the cement kiln dust and not discharged, another publication says.
Kleppinger said, "Residues are guilty until proven otherwise."
Lehighhas been burning wood chips and waste oil as a supplement to coal for about four years.
Burning more alternative fuels will allow the plant to stay competitive with other cement plants, plant manager David H. Roush has said.
Roush did not attend Kleppinger's talk, although other Lehigh employees did.
Vincent A. Campanella, a spokesman for the company, said Roush did not want to "disrupt or distract" the meeting.
David Duree, a member of the citizens group New Windsor Community Action Project, said the meeting would have been a good opportunity for the company and residents to discuss the issue.
"The company has to listen to the citizens. Citizens have to listen to the company," he said.
"Healthy discussion is not disruptive."