Essroc cement plant fined $38K for air-pollution violations

Essroc has agreed to pay a $38,400 penalty for air-pollution violations at its Martinsburg, West Virginia, cement plant, which triggered several complaints last year from nearby residents.

Essroc will be required to perform weekly, instead of monthly, “visible emission observations” at its South Queen Street plant as part of efforts to prevent future violations, according to Jesse D Adkins, assistant director of compliance and enforcement for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality, reports Herald Media.

The plant also is required to keep a specified number of replacement bags used to contain dust on hand and also implement a “cement clinker handling fugitive emissions control plan” for engineering improvements to the plant’s clinker silo-dust collector systems, according to a consent order signed by plant Director Heinz Knopfel and Division of Air Quality director William Durham.

Division officials conducted an inspection of visible emissions at the cement plant between Oct. 21 and Nov. 2 in response to citizen complaints, the consent order said.
The inspection revealed that dust was coming from near the top of a silo that houses clinker, Adkins said Wednesday in a telephone interview. Nodules of clinker typically are ground to a fine powder and used as a binding agent in cement products.

The investigation also found that seals on the access doors to enter the silo were not sealing properly, allowing dust to escape, Adkins said.
“From what we saw, this was the primary issue,” Adkins said of the source of the dust.

Nearby residents said the dust had repeatedly coated their vehicles, and it was difficult to remove without using vinegar or other special treatment.

Inspectors found on October 27 that the average amount of dust obscured by pollution in the air during six-minute blocks of time exceeded the plant’s permitted 10 percent emission limit, with the highest average reaching 40.4 percent, the DEP said last fall in a violation notice.

In November, an engineering study of the plant’s clinker silo-dust collectors was conducted by a firm on behalf of Essroc that said excessive air temperatures might have caused premature deterioration of the bags meant to catch the dust, the consent order said.

After Division of Air Quality representatives observed a dust “plume” coming from access doors of a clinker silo on Jan. 6, Essroc said additional repairs to the silo door seal had been done.

Plant officials said on January 21 that they made other adjustments to increase the efficiency of a dust-collector system.

The DEP’s investigation was separate from actions that Essroc took several days before the Oct. 27 inspection to keep dust from leaving the plant.

The company decided Oct. 21 to halt a special operation to haul clinker to the company’s sister plant in Nazareth, Pa.

The company said it also increased road sweeping and watering as part of efforts to contain dust as a result of truck traffic.

Considered a “major stationary source,” the portland cement plant is required to have an operating permit under the federal Clean Air Act because it has the potential to emit more than 100 tons per year of various pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds.

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