EPA cements mercury regulations

    Twenty years after Congress demanded it, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to release regulations on mercury emissions from cement kilns for the first time later today. Many of the cement manufacturing facilities are in Pennsylvania, and they have long been faulted for releasing high levels of mercury and other hazardous waste into waterways, contaminating the fish people eat.

    Twenty years after Congress demanded it, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to release regulations on mercury emissions from cement kilns for the first time later today. Many of the cement manufacturing facilities are in Pennsylvania, and they have long been faulted for releasing high levels of mercury and other hazardous waste into waterways, contaminating the fish people eat.
    Caption: A cement kiln upclose.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090421sbmercury.mp3]

    Pennsylvania has the third-most cement kilns in the country, after California and Texas. Congress passed legislation in 1990 requiring the EPA to regulate mercury emissions from cement kilns, but the agency never acted until now, despite three federal court orders.

    James Pew is an attorney for Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project. The groups sued EPA to force the regulations through.

    Pew: Cleaning up cement kilns is not the whole answer to the problem, but here is a big chunk of mercury that should be cleaned up and can be cleaned up, and getting it out of the air means eventually getting it out of the waterbodies and getting it out of the fish.

    The EPA estimates cement kilns put out nearly 23,000 pounds of mercury into the air each year.

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