Group says stone dust is pervasive near Lafarge

Plant officials insist all emissions well within state, fed regulations

A local DEC wildlife pathologist who in the past has targeted the mercury emissions of the Ravena Lafarge cement plant is now saying stone dust at the plant poses a threat to nearby residents and the environment.

Ward Stone, who is doing work in Ravena independent of the Department of Environmental Conservation, said he found high concentrations of calcium around the plant, indicative of stone dust given off during the transportation and processing of the limestone rock used in the concrete-making process.

In the early parts of the study I didn't pay much attention to the calcium, Stone said. "Then it dawned on me that a lot of it's being lost in dust."

While inhaling calcium can cause respiratory tract irritation or infection, said Stone, he's more concerned about other elements of the limestone also carried in the dust, including heavy metals like mercury.

Stone argued stone dust is blown around and falls off trucks during transport, and is getting into the surrounding community in greater levels than is generally thought, including into waterways and at the Ravena Coeymans Selkirk High School across the road from the plant.

"I don't want to start a big panic among the students and among the parents, but I can recommend to start doing some good housekeeping," to keep stone dust contained, Stone said.

John Reagan, Lafarge's Ravena Plant Environmental Operations Manager, said he hasn't seen scientific data behind Stone's studies and noted the plant is monitored by the DEC and EPA.

"When the DEC monitored air quality at the RCS High School Consistently for 11 years their findings confirmed that the air in our community is safe," he said.

That study consists of data collected in the 1970s and '80s.

Stone announced his findings at the Ravena VFW Tuesday, March 30, at a meeting sponsored by the Community Advocates for Safe Emissions group, which has also been fundraising to support Stone's research. Stone estimated lab tests have run up to $6,000 since he started his studies last year.

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