The cement quarry just south of Los Altos won’t be added to a Superfund list any time soon, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will expand its inquiry into the facility’s ecological impact and environmental compliance.
The EPA concluded last week that the Lehigh Permanente Southwest Cement Plant didn’t merit listing as a Superfund site, but announced that scrutiny will continue. The EPA became involved in response to a citizen’s petition.
“Lehigh’s discharges to Permanente Creek are of concern due to the potential impacts of selenium and other pollutants associated with the site’s geology and industrial practices,” according to EPA spokeswoman Mary Simms.
Simms said the creek analysis indicated selenium runoff, raising concerns about impact on the creek and San Francisco Bay. Further analysis is under way and the EPA is scheduled to release results this summer. Simms also noted that, based on the EPA’s preliminary assessment, the plant “does not pose a significant human health risk.”
Only the most polluted sites in the U.S. receive Superfund status. Making the list triggers extensive and expensive cleanup mandates.
Los Altos Hills City Councilman Gary Waldeck said the EPA’s conclusions were reasonable, but highlighted the mention of selenium in local waterways with some dismay.
“It is not an immediate effect, but it’s a long-term threat,” he said. “We don’t think it’s rising to a human health danger, but we do think it’s screwing up the riparian habitat all the way down to the Bay.”