U.S. EPA requires Cupertino cement company to report toxic chemicals, commit to environmental projects

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Lehigh Southwest Cement Company for failing to properly report releases of toxic chemicals at its Cupertino, Calif. plant. The company is required to pay a $47,600 penalty and spend $144,250 to fund projects that support local emergency response and limit future releases from the plant.

Under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Lehigh was required to submit to EPA and the State of California an accurate Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Reporting Form R for every toxic chemical manufactured or processed in quantities above the established thresholds. An EPA inspection found that for the years 2009 and 2010, Lehigh manufactured or processed nickel, thallium, lead and mercury compounds at the Cupertino plant in amounts that exceeded the thresholds, yet Lehigh failed to submit or submitted inaccurate Form Rs for those chemicals.

“The citizens of Cupertino play an important role in holding polluters accountable, and they rely on data from the Community Right-to-Know law.” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “It is critical for Lehigh to comply with federal laws that ensure the safety of neighboring communities and protect the local environment.”

The settlement requires the company to donate emergency response equipment, including 12 hazmat suits, to the Santa Clara County Fire Department within 90 days. The purchase of this equipment will enhance the fire department’s ability to respond to and prepare for chemical release emergencies at the area around the Cupertino facility.

Lehigh has also committed to fully enclose a raw materials conveyor belt to include new covers, sealed inspection ports, and specialized dust/debris collectors within a year of the settlement. This will help prevent fine-grained material conveyed on the belt from escaping, reducing potential environmental and public health impacts from the dust.

The Lehigh cement plant was subject to a joint federal and state Clean Water Act settlement announced in April 2015 that required the facility to reduce toxic discharges of selenium and other metals to Permanente Creek, a tributary of San Francisco Bay.

EPCRA was enacted to encourage and support emergency planning efforts at the state and local level, and to provide the public with information concerning the amounts, location and potential effects of chemical hazards present in their community. To accomplish this, EPCRA created TRI, a publicly available EPA database that contains information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities reported annually by certain industries and federal facilities.

For more information about the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and to get TRI factsheets for your community, please visit: http://www2.epa.gov/epcra

For more information about the Toxic Release Inventory Program, please visit:
http://www2.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program/tri-reporting-forms-and-instructions

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