Lafarge releases mercury report

The Lafarge cement plant in Ravena has issued a voluntary study of its emissions in the midst of major renovation plan to upgrade its facilities in Albany County.

Although the large smoke stack visible along Route 9W across from the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School is one of the largest emitters of mercury around the state, Lafarge officials say not all mercury is created equal.

John Reagan, the plant's environmental manager, said on Monday, Jan. 12, that the majority of the mercury released from the plant is elemental mercury that comes from the limestone that is harvested locally, and not directly harmful to human health.

The $250,000 study was conducted by Environmental Quality Management Inc. of Durham, N.C., which Reagan said was used as an independent and reliable testing firm. Although the plant is currently piecing together its draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the state's Department of Environmental Conservation to renew its permit and upgrade its facility, Reagan said elemental mercury couldn't be completely filtered.

"There's no existing technology out there to filter elemental mercury," he said but added about the proposed upgrade, "with this new technology the mercury will be in an oxidized form which is water soluble we expect the emissions would be greatly reduced, if not eliminated."

The report estimated that about 146 pounds of mercury is emitted from the Route 9W plant each year. Testing sessions were done over five months, but plans for the testing began about a year ago, according to Reagan. The study shows that testing was conducted in and around the plant's smoke stack but was not conducted at distances downwind of Lafarge.

The DEC oversaw some of the testing.

"The DEC reviewed and approved our work plans and were onsite to oversee some of the testing," Reagan said. "We decided to undertake this process on our own after hearing concerns from the public."

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