Issue: Lehigh Cement Co. in Union Bridge sought permission from Carroll County officials to build a 130-foot silo to store dried sewage sludge, called biosolids, that the company planned to use as an alternative fuel source to fire its kiln. The Carroll zoning administrator said the county code prohibits the storage of sewage sludge in all zoning districts except public wastewater treatment plants. Zoning Administrator Neil Ridgely said the plant could build the silo but that Lehigh could not fill it with pelletized sludge. The decision might rest with county commissioners. Do you think that Lehigh should be allowed to burn the dried sludge as fuel?
Don't allow Lehigh to build anything else
I do not think that Lehigh should be allowed to build anything else or be given anymore leeway to continue to pollute our air. Lehigh has proven that it cannot be trusted, has been cited numerous times by the regulatory agencies and continues to skate around the law.
Gladys Scott Union Bridge
Storage of sludge a major concern
At the April 20 Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council meeting, a Lehigh rep gave a brief presentation on biosolids.
Early in the presentation, he was adamant about a reference that what Lehigh was planning on using was NOT considered sewage sludge. An obvious attempt to skirt the regulation. However, every slide thereafter referenced the material as sewage sludge.
Many of these slides apparently were created by Lehigh, with several showing incineration/combustion comparisons between sewage sludge, coal, and wood. Citizens asked, well, is it or isn't it sewage sludge? Of course, we were told it was not, although they referred to it as such.
Data on the incineration of sludge is sparse, at best, although most say that it is OK, if a constant high temperature is achieved. This apparently is based on available information. However, Lehigh has had problems maintaining a constant temperature in their kiln.
My major concern is the storage. During the presentation, the Lehigh rep pointed out that the extremely high volatility of this material is what makes it so efficient. It is also this extremely high volatility that makes the material auto-combustible.
With all the other issues Lehigh must work out over the next three years as part of the Maryland Department of the Environment consent decree, taking on another "experiment," with so many "if's" is not a wise move. In the end it may prove a good solution, but let them fix their current issues first.
Another point is that a Dec. 7, 2004 meeting with a few residents and the mayor, [Lehigh plant manager] Peter Lukas said that he was adamant about keeping the community and Town Council informed of issues at the plant and any future plans.
However, the town was never supplied a copy of the test burn results, nor was the community sufficiently notified of the planning and zoning hearing in regard to this 130-foot silo. Two small signs at the back entrance, and the notification of six residents on Quaker Hill Road (one being the Friends Meeting House, whose invitation was returned to the planning and zoning board since the post office could not deliver it) does NOT classify as "keeping the community informed."
Frank Maxwell Union Bridge
Little known about risks of biosolids
On April 15, Zoning Administrator Neil Ridgely denied Lehigh Cement's application for a variance to store human sludge, or biosolids, in a silo at the Union Bridge facility. Mr. Ridgley's decision was based on his interpretation of the Carroll County Code prohibiting the storage of sewage sludge.
Commissioners Gouge and Minnich both withheld their support for Lehigh's desire to store and burn biosolids for fuel in their cement kiln. Their reticence was less about matters of law than it was about concern for the public's health. In The Sun, Commissioner Minnich said: "I am not ready to open the doors to this kind of fuel until I know it is safe. ... "
Commissioner Minnich is right on point and we applaud him.
The principle being laid out by Commissioner Minnich is relatively new, namely, that a company or an industry must prove the safety of a substance before it is allowed to use it.
What typically happens is a company, in the name of economic development, is allowed to emit or dispose of whatever it wishes to the land, air and water. A substance is presumed innocent until it is proved harmful.
And that can take a very long time. It took over 75 years to stop the lead industry from poisoning our children and our air with lead paint, leaded gasoline and lead in children's crayons. The tragedy is our leaders eventually knew lead was harmful and looked the other way.