Environmental Protection

Petition Pushes EPA to Move on Cement Kiln Dust Management

Riverkeeper has filed a legal petition forcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action on a rule that sets the standards for how toxic cement kiln dust (CKD) is managed by cement producers around the country.

This byproduct of cement manufacturing is often dumped into unlined landfills and old quarries, causing toxic leachate to foul groundwater and surface water. The proposed rule was published in 1999, but due to unyielding pressure from the cement industry, has languished for nearly 11 years, according to Riverkeeper. As a result, no federal standards for CKD disposal exist today.

“In New York and around the country, these unlined landfills ooze toxic leachate and devastate the environment,” said Josh Verleun, Riverkeeper chief investigator and staff attorney. “Through our action, we are seeking to force the creation of federal standards for the disposal of CKD, a substance that when mixed with groundwater, can result in a heavy-metal laden runoff with pH levels comparable to household bleach.”

Riverkeeper is an environmental watchdog organization whose mission is to protect the ecological integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water supply of New York City and the lower Hudson Valley.

Over the past few years, Riverkeeper has been involved in investigations of several cement plants that have been either been caught (or are suspected of) polluting the Hudson River and its tributaries with contaminated leachate from onsite landfills containing CKD. In 2007, Riverkeeper filed a Notice of Intent to Sue Lehigh Northeast Cement Company for illicit leachate discharges from its unlined CKD landfill. This action led to fines and an Order on Consent mandating cleanup from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Lehigh landfill was constructed without a liner or leachate collection system and serves as an example of problem sites around the country that would be addressed through EPA action on Riverkeeper’s petition.

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