Council chips in funding for quarry review

Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

The Los Altos City Council approved funding for an analysis of emissions produced by the Lehigh quarry.

The Los Altos City Council last week voted unanimously to contribute $4,000 toward an analysis examining additional cost-effective steps that Lehigh Permanente Southwest Cement Plant officials could take to improve emissions standards.

The plant is located in the Cupertino foothills, adjacent to Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

The council’s contribution is part of a $10,000 jointly funded study headed by Breathe California, an advocacy group formerly affiliated with the American Lung Association that promotes lung health. The Los Altos Hills City Council voted Thursday to support the study with a $4,000 contribution as well.

In September, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) adopted Regulation 9, Rule 13 – known as the Portland Cement Rule – to more stringently regulate potentially harmful emissions from the quarry.

Los Altos Hills City Councilman Gary Waldeck told the Los Altos council Nov. 13 that while the new emissions standards adopted by the BAAQMD are “a long step from where we were,” the intent of the study is to examine what, if any, additional measures Lehigh Southwest Cement could take.

“The intent here is to do two things,” said Waldeck, who estimated that the study would take approximately two months. “The first is to examine what they have and what they’re going to do to implement the new rule. And then, the objective here is to find one or two more things, that with just a little bit more of investment, you can get this much better.”

The quarry is a limestone and aggregate mining operation and cement plant that has been in existence since 1939. Owned by Lehigh Southwest Cement, the plant makes a product known as Portland Cement.

The adopted BAAQMD emissions standards for the quarry, as previously reported in the Sept. 26 Town Crier, are scheduled to take effect in 2013 – two years ahead of new regulations adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Waldeck noted that Breathe California will contract with Dr. Jim Staudt of Andover Technology Partners to conduct the study. A report to the council stated that Staudt is a “noted industry consultant” familiar with the quarry’s technology who “feels that alternatives to the (BAAQMD) approach may be economically feasible and productive.”

Among other things, the study will explore additional relatively low-cost controls and identify lower emissions as a result of those proposed controls.

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