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Health Impact of the Cement Plant Health & Environmental Threat Research worldwide indicates that tire burning kilns have a serious detrimental impact on community health and the integrity of the surrounding environment. Kiln emmissions have been found to cause cancer and respiratory illness. Environmental degredation ranges from physical alteration to heavy metal,mercury, and chemical contamination. Chemicals from the air and ground water entering the river, can accumulate to toxic quantities in wildlife and degrade the river ecosystem. As the river becomes polluted the entire ecosystem is at risk: human health is compromised, wildlife is threatened and the environment is in peril. Below are listed 10 points that substantiate this view and can be supported by medical research, primarily commissioned by Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA). Dioxins Dioxins are among emissions from tire-burning kiln. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently classified the most toxic dioxins as the worst known human carcinogens (cancer causing agents). Dioxins also affect the immune system, fertility, and the unborn child. Because of this, the USA has reduced their safety levels for Dioxins repeatedly. The EPA concluded, "Exposure to Dioxins, even at minute levels, poses cancer risks and health concerns wider than previously suspected". Particulates Particulates are extremely small particles that enter the lungs directly, as they are too small to be filtered out. In August 1995 the official monitoring of particulates at Castle Cement Plant in Clithroe, England was 70mg/m³ whereas an independent monitoring showed 490mg/m³ at a school downwind from the plant. At this school 22% of 8 - 9 year olds used inhalers, compared with an upwind school where only 3% of children used them. Castle Cement's predicted particulate emissions are 63 tons p.a. (Castle Cement's Environmental Statement). No matter what the company says will come out of the stack, studies worldwide have shown that real emissions are considerably greater and subject to sporadic events of particularly high concentrations. Unpredictability of Plume No one can guarantee where the plume from the tower will land. Plumes from high stacks can travel considerable distances depending on wind conditions (direction and intensity). Studies have shown that a plume from a tall stack drops its particulates within a minimum radius of 11 miles to 47 miles from the stack. The volume of particulates can be quite large and may actually travel considerably larger distances (100's of miles) in any direction with the wind. This is also the reason that acid rain originating from smoke stacks in the Midwest falls to the ground in Maine. The health effects of this kiln will reach to Tallahassee and Jacksonville in small amounts. Again, company predictions of the plume emission volumes and trajectories are not realistic. Mercury and a myriad of other chemical pollutants will fall in the Ichetucknee, Santa Fe and Suwannee rivers. Regions such as The San Francisco Bay Area and the state of Maine have already limited mercury emissions to below what will come out of this plant. Heavy Metals and Mercury EPA studies have documented that heavy metals do not incinerate and emissions from incinerators pose a significant health risk. The new cement kiln would be generating heavy metal emissions and most of them are toxic to humans. Worldwide studies have revealed that mercury entering an aquatic system will accumulate in the food chain. Fish are particularly susceptible to accumulating high amounts of these toxins in their tissues, which can then accumulate in the tissues of the birds and mammals who eat them. And ultimately, in humans who eat the contaminated fish and animals. The kiln will release 129 pounds of mercury more than allowed by any state or agency concerned with environmental health. General Health Problems A study conducted on illnesses related to tire burning cement plants in Texas showed a 50% to 100% increase in coughing, phlegm, sore throats, and eye irritation in people near the incinerators. A similar study concluded that a substantially greater incidence of larynx cancer occurred in a community within 2 km of a commercial hazardous waste incinerator. Double blind studies reveal that people who live within five miles of a tire burning kiln in Texas are sicker, it is that simple. Lack of Research For the vast majority of chemicals, we have little or no long term toxicity data. Fewer that 2% of chemicals have been tested. Tires are not made of rubber, they are complex chemical mixtures that will release thousands of chemicals in mixtures that will create new ones, the health hazards of this are unknown. As a cancer researcher I know that mixtures of chemicals in low doses are cancer causing in humans, even if the individual chemical is not. WHO reports recent evidence that 10,000 people in England and Wales die prematurely each year from respiratory or heart conditions due to particulates. MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries) showed dioxin levels to be 4 times higher than normal at Clitheroe Cement Kiln where prescriptions for asthma have risen 50% since they started burning chemicals and tires. Cement Kilns are prone to Upsets and Trips Dr Rickard (Professor of Environmental Health) states that "cement kilns do not have the necessary reliability and safeguards to ensure complete destruction of hazardous wastes". Castle Cement in UK has had many such 'trips' in the past, as do the kilns in Texas and the rest of the USA. By previous experience, there will be mistakes often and they result in odor, and chemical releases far above the listed values. Hidden Costs I urge you to consider the economic impact that heavy industry will have on the surrounding community The visual blight and resulting drop in property values People leaving the area - there is already evidence for this The deterrent to firms who might otherwise have moved to this area Lowering of living standards and quality of life Noise and Diesel truck emissions Threat to Employment The area in Northern Florida between the three rivers is a pristine environmental area whose whole future depends on tourism and vacation and retirement housing. All this will stop with the kiln, we trade 80 jobs for thousands. Stress With the increase in noise, traffic on local roads and respiratory and other health problems, there is likely to be an increase is stress related illnesses in the local population. Recommendations As elected representatives you shoulder the responsibility for our health and well being. If you approve this application you are giving permission for a tire incinerator to be built in our community with the associated long-term health risks not only to the present generation but also to generations to come. I, therefore, strongly urge you to consider the following objectives and do something to stop this kiln. Objectives Stop the mining around the rivers because it will degrade the rivers. The mine should not be a hostage. Since you know the mine is a hazard, stop it without any tie to the kiln which is another issue. Do not permit the plant do to health reasons. Dioxins, mercury, mixed chemicals not reported to DEP are enough of a justification. Health studies worldwide prove beyond a doubt the kiln will cause cancer and lung disease. A tire-burning kiln is not good for a community. Certainly do not permit this kiln in an agricultural environmentally sensitive area. If it must exist put it in an industrial area. However, my personal view is that a tire burning cement plant is a health hazard anywhere it is built. Adapted from The Campaign Against the New Kiln, a site dedicated to stopping a tire-burning kiln in the UK. HeraldDemocrat-2 Part 2 The Health and Economic Impacts of Living Near A Cement Plant Living near a cement plant means many things. In this case, if North Texas Cement is successful in building their plant south of Whitewright, it means seeing fertile farmland turned into huge, dusty pits where limestone is being dynamited and/or dug out of the ground. It means an enormous increase in truck traffic, noise and lights. But, there are also serious health and economic ramifications if the plant is built there. Last November, Save Whitewright and Tri-Counties (SWAT) held a meeting in Sherman where Dr. George Crawford, Professor Emeritus of Physics and former head of SMU Physics Department and Dr. Neil Carman, former inspector of industrial plants for the Texas Air Control Board for 12 years, were the key speakers. They spent two hours discussing the health impacts of living near a cement plant, and the facts were alarming. There is not enough room to cover all of the information brought to light at that meeting, but here are some highlights: From Dr. Crawford: The area within five miles of the plant will be the high danger zone, and within twenty miles of the plant will be the danger zone. In these zones there will be an increase in lung-related diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Those with a predisposition to respiratory problems will be affected the most. Premature death will occur among the weakest in the population. Cement kiln dust (CKD) contains the residues of fuel-burning. If tires and coal are burned, there will be heavy metals like mercury. There will be harmful dioxin. Cement kiln dust dumped into quarries will eventually find its way into every underground water source in the area. The most harmful pollutants in the emissions from cement kilns are invisible, and the statement that there must be no harm in the emissions because nothing can be seen is a meaningless statement. From Dr. Carman: The burning of tires emits harmful heavy metals and dangerous dioxin. Very low levels of dioxin have been shown to cause cancer. The burning of coal in cement kilns emits mercury, a lethal element that accumulates in the environment. f this is allowed, we are leaving a dangerous legacy for our children and grandchildren. The mercury will accumulate in the soil, the plants, and the fish, and it will be ingested by livestock. Mercury is a known contributor to birth defects, neurological damage, and brain damage. These facts come from educated scientists who have studied the fields of air masses and the health effects of air pollution for over twenty years. And if health concerns aren't enough to convince you that living near a cement plant is not a good idea, consider the following facts about the economic impact of living near a cement plant. Barbara Wilson is a Realtor for Coldwell Banker Benchmark in Sherman. Most of her home sales are in Grayson county, and she reports losing sales and prospective sales due to just the possibility of a cement plant locating in Grayson County. Ms. Wilson stated, "They buyers know that it is undesirable to live near a cement plant, and they also feel sure that heavy industry attracts other heavy industry, and that there will be more and more of this in the area once it gets started." She added that these customers are concerned about the potential health problems of living near a cement plant as well as the loss of quality of life. Another Realtor, Mary Stevens, a multimillion dollar producer for Re-Max in Allen (Collin County) reports that a prospective buyer was absolutely committed to buying a country home in Grayson County until news of the cement plant surfaced. Now the buyer won't look at anything near Whitewright. A family in Whitewright considering putting their house on the market this spring was advised by a Realtor to wait. The message was: hope the cement plant does not locate in Whitewright, and you'll get more for your home. One Whitewright family had plans to open a business in downtown Whitewright, an area that is in need of important services such as a printer and shoe repair store. This family immediately canceled these plans until the issue of the cement plant is resolved. In casual conversations with Whitewright residents I personally know of a dozen families that have put home improvements or the building of a new home on hold due to the prospect of the cement plant. Undoubtedly there are many others. Whitewright and Grayson County have already suffered economically due to just the possibility of a cement plant in the area. And ask yourself this: is there even one place in the world that is home to a cement plant that would be considered a nice neighborhood...one that a family would look forward to living in or near? And is there one place in the world that is home to just one cement plant and no other heavy industry? The establishment of a cement plant in an area seals that area's fate. It will be a heavy industry town forever, and never what is was before. The next logical question is: don't the federal and state governments protect citizens so that there are no harmful pollutants and no adverse economic impacts from industry like cement plants? Next time, I'll address those issues. You may be surprised at the answers. |Part 1| |Part 3| |Part 4| |Part 5| |SWAT Home Page| HeraldDemocrat-3 Part 3 What Help Can Be Expected from the TNRCC and the EPA? When a community is threatened by the construction and operation of an unwanted industrial facility the citizens probably assume that there are certain state and federal regulations that will protect them. They probably assume these regulations will take into account health and safety issues, traffic concerns, noise and light pollution, and the economic impact of this kind of facility. No doubt they hope that these regulations will safeguard them and their investment. And that is no doubt what many people in Grayson, Collin and Fannin counties believe when they consider the issue of North Texas Cement Company building a cement plant south of Whitewright in Grayson County. It is important for everyone to understand just how the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) operates, and how much help citizens can expect from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The fundamental principle underlying the operation of both the EPA and its representative TNRCC is that it is in the nation's best interest not to disturb the economics of existing industry in order to preserve the health of those locally subject to the pollution. Their present approach is to clean up the worst polluters of a given industry, i.e. the worst of the cement kilns, but they apply no pressure to the best. If the entire industry presents health risks, then nothing is done for the health of local citizens. The EPA is only concerned with hazardous waste permits, so the EPA will not be involved with the initial North Texas Cement Company (NTCC) permitting process because NTCC is not initially requesting a permit to burn hazardous waste as fuel. In Texas, the TNRCC has been authorized to act on behalf of the EPA in the area of air pollution. The TNRCC has no jurisdiction over noise, light pollution, increase in traffic and loss of property value due to proximity to an industrial site. These issues are handled by local zoning ordinances. However, North Texas Cement has conveniently chosen its proposed site outside city limits, where there can be no zoning ordinances. Why are there no ordinances? Because in Texas only residents of incorporated cities are given the basic tool for community planning: zoning. What about the health hazards? Doesn't the TNRCC have strict guidelines for cement plants to ensure the emissions are safe to breathe? The TNRCC uses a system called "Effects Screening Levels" (ESLs) for thousands of chemicals to determine whether a facility will cause health damage to the surrounding community. It is the basis for all the state's assurances of safety to citizens from facilities (such as cement kilns) emitting toxic air pollution. As long as any chemical's concentration in the air does not exceed its ESL, the TNRCC states that no "adverse health effects are expected." Yet according to the first independent examination of the state's ESL system ("Sacrificing Science for Convenience") "ESLs turn out to be arbitrary numbers which have no sound scientific basis and reliance on them is nothing short of dangerous." This new report is written by scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and a former state air quality engineer. Another alarming factor, according to the UTMB report, is this ESL system for risk assessment is reliant upon obscure federal occupational exposure standards called Threshold Limit Values (TLVs). The TLVs themselves are based not on independent epidemiological research, but on corporate literature that has never been peer-reviewed. Despite warnings from the authors of these TLVs not to use them in the establishment of "safe" ambient air levels for the public, the TNRCC is doing just that. This is exactly the equivalent of tobacco company studies showing that tobacco is not addictive or harmful. Jim Tarr, the environmental engineer who coauthored the study, concludes that the regulatory system used by the TNRCC does not meet the six most basic ethical tests that should be applied to government. In the meantime, Tarr states "the public is left to suffer the unknown consequences of a scientifically meaningless, bureaucratic endeavor." If further proof is needed that the TNRCC is putting industry profits ahead of public health, consider this: on September 11, 1995 a memo was sent to the 15 Field Offices of TNRCC stating that they were no longer allowed to perform unannounced annual inspections of major industrial facilities such as cement kilns. The new policy called for announced only inspections with a one to two week advance warning. This is the equivalent of the highway patrol announcing the time and location of their speed traps. In the last couple years, the TNRCC has also had a history of denying citizen participation in public hearings concerning industrial plants. Examples are: South Odessa citizens and Rexene Products; Lubbock citizens and West Texas Wilbert Vault Co.; citizens opposing Rainbow Materials concrete batch plant; and citizens concerned about the Formosa Plastics Point Comfort PVC Plant. When the above facts are examined it becomes clear that the sentiment, "There is nothing to worry about because the EPA and the TNRCC will look out for us," lacks any real reassurance. The EPA and TNRCC are quite effective in controlling small businesses. They, for example, forced the closure of the only gasoline station on the main street of Whitewright, but they have difficulty dealing with big money, particularly when it funds so many Political Action Committees that fund political campaigns. What is the solution? What do concerned citizens like the supporters of SWAT want to achieve? We will address these issues next time. |Part 1| |Part 2| |Part 4| |Part 5| |SWAT Home Page| HeraldDemocrat-4 Part 4 The Solution According to SWAT The 1500 citizens who have signed a petition opposing the construction of a cement plant in Grayson, Collin and Fannin counties don't have their heads in the sand. They know society needs industry and society needs cement. They also know something else: living near a cement kiln, any cement kiln, is unsafe. According to Dr. George Crawford, Professor Emeritus of Physics at SMU and an expert on air pollution, the area within five miles of a cement plant is a "High Danger Zone" and within twenty miles is a "Danger Zone," where, he states, "There will be an increase in lung-related diseases: asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Those with a predisposition to respiratory problems will be affected the most. Premature death will occur among the weakest in the population." So what is the solution? We need cement, and we need to protect the health and welfare of all citizens, not just those that live outside these danger zones. The only solution to this apparent dilemma, short of locating cement kilns 20 miles from the nearest inhabitant, is for the cement industry to clean up its act. Unfortunately, the cement industry is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first century. In all the full page ads and all the public relations literature the cement industry produces, there is not one mention of a cement kiln operator making any investment to reduce pollution that was not mandated by government. And of all the dollars spent on public relations and political campaigns, there is not one shred of evidence that a single cent has ever been spent in pollution research. This is not an industry leading us into the future. It is dragging us down. Actually, cleaning up cement kiln emissions is not all that difficult. All they have to do is burn only natural gas. The only problem is that it costs more than the alternatives: coal, tires, hazardous wastes. Government is part of the problem. Cement kilns that burn tires are paid by the state. Cement kilns were not designed to be incinerators, of course, so the state even provided grants to pay for retrofitting to get them to minimal standards. That process is part of the "Texas Tire Recycling Program" and is a misguided attempt to solve the tire disposal problem. Some of our more brazen tire-burning advocates in and out of government have the gall to call it recycling. Think about it. If I told you I was recycling newspaper by burning it in my furnace, what would you say? How can burning anything be recycling? And why should the state pay cement kilns to burn an extraordinarily large Texas resource that might be used, for example, in street and highway construction and maintenance? The great State of Texas needs to find a more enlightened solution to its waste tire problem. Given the clear and present dangers of life near polluting industry, citizens must be given the right to plan and control their communities growth. In Texas, only incorporated cities can control their own growth because only they have the right to create zoning ordinances. On unincorporated county land, anything goes: junk yard, massage parlor, you name it. Does it make sense to you that citizens' say in determining the usage of neighboring land depends upon which side of a city border line they live? It is time our legislators wake up to the fact that farmers have the same concerns as city dwellers. Finally, the EPA and its representative TNRCC must be insulated from politics. They need the same power as the US Food and Drug Administration and the same autonomy as Alan Greenspan. As it stands, both organizations are run by political appointees, and thus must cater to the political realities of campaign funding. Neither can be effective in regulating big money. In summary, a number of factors contribute to the ability of dirty industry to locate in a neighborhood near you: unenlightened industry and government, impotent regulators, inequitable community planning rights and politicians for hire. The long term solution is to fix them all. For now, the only promising avenue of pursuit for those in the danger zone of North Texas Cement Company's proposed cement plant south of Whitewright is the incorporation of the city of Bethel and zoning out heavy industry. The election to incorporate and select a city council is May 3. We need your support. |Part 1| |Part 2| |Part 3| |Part 5| |SWAT Home Page| HeraldDemocrat-1 Part 1 Who are the supporters of SWAT and why are they fighting a cement plant? You may have seen something in this newspaper, on TV, or heard a neighbor talk about a group of people going by the name of "SWAT" and wondered what it's all about. Before getting into the details of how and why this group formed, let me pose a few questions. What would you do if you found out that a multimillion dollar company had been quietly trying to option land to build a facility that would forever change the nature of your community? What would you do if, after some investigation, you discovered this industry could damage your health, decrease your property values, increase traffic significantly, and contaminate the water supply? What would you do if you found out your city officials seemed to be turning a blind eye to all of this, or even worse, supporting this activity? No doubt you would do what over 1400 area citizens have done in Grayson, Collin and Fannin counties. You would begin by studying the problem. You would talk to neighbors, talk to other people who live in similar communities, talk to experts in the fields of concern, and then organize to develop a plan of action. "SWAT" stands for Save Whitewright and Tri-Counties, the organization that formed in October of 1996. The reason? They discovered, rather suddenly, that a cement company, North Texas Cement Company of Midlothian, had been working quietly for months to win the favor of local politicians and option 2500 acres of land in their community to build a quarry and cement plant. So who are these SWAT people? They are doctors, nurses, moms and dads, farmers, merchants, lawyers, realtors, grandparents, pastors, electricians, plumbers, teachers, administrators and people from all professions and walks of life from Grayson, Fannin and Collin counties. Many of these people moved there to escape the big-city pollution. They are not crazy, emotional environmentalists. The supporters of SWAT see this as a public health issue, just as you would if you found out you would be living in the "danger zone" from emissions and other problems associated with cement plants. SWAT started with a few neighbors comparing notes, and now, just six months later, SWAT has grown to more than 1400 supporters. They are just like you. No doubt some of your questions are: "So, what exactly are the health and economic concerns of this type of industrial activity? Isn't this industry regulated by state and federal agencies? Won't these agencies ensure that public health is protected? What is the solution? What does SWAT want to achieve? These are good questions. Each one will be addressed in a series of editorials to be published each week in this column. Next week the health and economic impacts of living near a cement plant will be addressed.
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