Concrete plant may face fines

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Advance Ready Mix, based in Louisville, could face as much as $150,000 in fines following two releases earlier this month at its portable cement facility in Carroll County, located on U.S. 42 East behind Grower’s Warehouse.

The first release on Aug. 6 involved the facility’s fly-ash silo. According to request for “relief from compliance,” submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality on Aug. 20 by plant manager Roger Laslie, the first release was caused by an elbow in the piping from the silo that “was not properly secured during construction.” Laslie said vibration from the plant while in operation caused the elbow to fall off and the release of ash onto the ground.

The Aug. 9 incident, Laslie said in the report, was caused by “a foreign object in the cement feed,” for which he gave two possible causes: Either the pressure-relief valve had been left open, allowing water to enter and harden some of the cement into concrete, causing the clog, or there was already a large, “hard chunk of material” in the silo that got caught in the valve.

On behalf of Advance, Laslie argued that, in both cases, the incidents meet DEP standards allowing for “relief from compliance” because the company was doing what was required to ensure the equipment was being properly maintained at the time of both releases.

“Daily inspection reports show no evidence of any necessary repairs required,” and “routine inspections show no indication of existing problems” for either the fly-ash silo or the cement silo, and the equipment was installed per manufacturer specifications, Laslie states in his report to DEP. He also states that maintenance personnel activated manual shut-off valves in both cases, and other employees assisted to help contain the materials, and that the local fire department was called in to use water to help control dust.

Laslie’s report shows that an estimated 20 tons of fly-ash was released on Aug. 6 and 10 tons of cement dust was released
Aug. 9.

Attempts to contact Laslie for additional comment were unsuccessful by press time Tuesday.

Request rejected

Laslie’s request for relief, however, was rejected by the Division of Air Quality, and a Notice of Violation was issued Aug. 27 by DEP Investigator Courtney Shattuck.

In the notice, Shattuck cites Advance for failing to notify the division for both the Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 incidents “as promptly as possible,” which is required by state law.

According to her report, the Division of Air Quality was not informed of either release until it received a complaint from an unidentified third party.

Additionally, Shattuck cites the company for not operating “the Carrollton plant in accordance with good air-pollution control practices” and for allowing “fugitive emissions” from the cement silo to reach neighboring residences.

The violations are subject to fines of up to $25,000 each, per day, explained Clay Redmond, environmental control supervisor for the air quality division in Florence, Ky. But, he explained, the amount of fines Advance may face, along with any other remedial measures, will be determined by the DEP’s Division of Enforcement.

Redmond said the enforcement division has many options in terms of setting fines in this case, but said he thinks it’s unlikely that Advance will be required to pay the full $150,000 in fines they face.

“The state rarely takes that harsh of an approach,” he said.

The quantity of the fly-ash and cement that were released in both incidents “is a large amount, undoubtedly,” Redmond said. Though officials suspect the majority of the ash and cement dust remained on Advance property, “we don’t know how much” because DEP officials were not promptly notified.

But, in both cases, the pollutants did affect neighboring properties. On Aug. 6, the fly-ash release caused Dow Corning to force its employees to shelter in place until officials determined the ash was not a threat. On Aug. 9, residents in Burley Estates were forced indoors when the wind carried clouds of cement dust onto their properties.

Redmond said he did not know when the Division of Enforcement would issue its decision in the case.