As 1991 began, Union Bridge-area residents came out in force to oppose a Lehigh Portland Cement Co. plan to burn carbon waste as a fuel in its cement kilns.

The residents vocally fought the plan at public hearings in January and formed a citizens group, Residents for a Healthier Union Bridge Area, and investigated the New Jersey company from which the waste was to come.

Their input helped the Maryland Department of the Environment decide in June to deny Lehigh permission to burn the waste. At year's end, Lehigh's appeal of the decision still is pending.

MDE officialssaid they denied the permit because the carbon waste could be hazardous and because of past emissions violations at Lehigh. The waste would come from CIBA-GEIGY Corp., a plastics and dye manufacturer in Toms River, N.J., where it's used in the waste water treatment process.

Lehigh has a history of emissions violations. Last spring, the state cited Lehigh for illegal emissions on 21 days in February and March and proposed fining the company $20,000.

Residents vigilantly watched for emissions from the plant's stacks last year and called an MDE hot line with complaints.

The fine for the emissions still is pending, MDE spokesman John Goheen said.

The state also cited Lehigh in January because a report the company submitted showed some wasteoil accepted in July 1990 exceeded the maximum lead content. The state proposed a $2,000 fine. That matter also is pending, Goheen said.

Lehigh, the sixth-largest cement producer in the United States, also had plans to try to get state permission to burn liquid hazardous waste in its kilns.

The company announced in August, however, thatit would withdraw its application, saying the plan was not economical. Officials said they may reconsider.

Lehigh's primary fuel is coal, but the company also has burned about 4.5 percent waste oil -- not classified as hazardous -- since 1986.

The company, which came to Union Bridge in 1925, employs about 190 people, most of them members of the United Paperworkers Union. The plant makes 1 million tons ofcement a year.

Its Union Bridge quarry will be depleted in about 17 years.

The company expects to begin work this year on a new quarry just south of New Windsor. It has county and state permission to mine 66 acres on the 750-acre site between Route 31 and Old New Windsor Road.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad