- Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

SPEED, Ind. (AP) - Residents living near a cement-making plant in a small southern Indiana community are worried the plant’s plans to use a new fuel type could pose a public health and environmental threat.

Essroc Cement Corp. is applying for a state environmental permit to burn liquid waste-derived fuel in one of its cement kilns in the unincorporated Clark County community of Speed. The fuel is repurposed from used products such as antifreeze, the News and Tribune (https://bit.ly/1ne1nLg ) reported.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Barry Sneed said the agency has decided to hold a public hearing on the cement plant’s plans because of “several requests” for one, though it isn’t required to do so. A date has not been set.

Teri Corya, who lives in nearby Perry Crossing, said she’s worried about the fuel’s potential effects on the air, especially with schools in the area.

“I want to smell clean air,” she said. “I’m ready to move anywhere because I’m so sick of smelling it.”

Essroc Corporate Environmental Engineer Luis Rodriguez said the company welcomes the public’s questions. The company hosted an open house and talked with community leaders in 2014 before it submitted its application.

“We actually want it to go to public comment so we can answer some of these questions,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve wanted to be as upfront on this as possible.”

Liquid waste-derived fuel is commonly used in the cement industry. Mike McHugh, the Speed plant’s director, said Essroc plans to use products mostly from the petroleum industry, such as paint thinners, antifreeze and acetone.

The plant will have to build two small storage facilities for it to start replacing about 25 to 30 percent of the coal it burns with liquid waste-derived fuel, McHugh said.

Officials in the cement industry say burning waste-derived fuels is better for the environment than coal. The Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition, of which Essroc is a member, says the process of making and burning waste-derived fuels is safe because the Environmental Protection Agency regulates it and it’s held to strict standards.

McHugh said turning the used products into fuel also means they don’t go into landfills, and is therefore a more sustainable alternative.

Mahendra Sunkara, director of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the University of Louisville, said it’s hard to compare the safety of burning coal versus liquid waste-derived fuel because products that compose the latter can fluctuate. He said “it should be a little bit cleaner” than coal, but it depends on the waste stream.

Sunkara said what’s important is that Essroc monitor emission levels and keep them at legal limits.

Sneed said in an email that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management believes complying with permit requirements “will assure human health and the environment are protected.”

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com

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