Cement maker Holcim US has agreed to pay $100,000 in fines to settle alleged air pollution violations after reports of large clouds of cement dust leaving its facility in Theodore in Mobile County.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced this week that it had reached a settlement with Holcim in which the company will pay $100,000 and comply with its permit requirements to prevent fugitive dust emissions.
Holcim’s Theodore plant is located on the Theodore industrial canal on the western side of Mobile Bay, about 15 miles south of the city of Mobile.
According to the ADEM settlement agreement, there were multiple citizen complaints and reports by ADEM inspectors of large clouds of dust emanating from the facility from February until August of 2022.
On February 15, an ADEM inspector at the facility reported “significant fugitive emissions” from multiple sources at the plant.
Then, on July 27, ADEM personnel at a nearby facility reported seeing “a fugitive emission plume from the Facility that was clearly visible from a distance.”
On August 3, ADEM received a complaint “with pictures showing a large dust plume over the Facility.”
Then, on August 8, ADEM said it received a “similar complaint” for dust plumes at the facility on July 5 and August 3.
“We have worked closely with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to address concerns raised earlier this year at the Holcim Theodore cement plant,” the company said in a statement to AL.com.
“As a result of these concerns, we have agreed to a resolution which includes a financial penalty.”
The company said it is working to address the issues that resulted in emissions.
“We take responsibility for the actions and in fact, since that time, we have taken specific actions to address fugitive dust emissions that result from offloading raw material from ships and barges and developed a plan for addressing such emissions from around the plant to ensure future compliance,” the statement said.
In the company’s response to ADEM’s allegations, Holcim also said that it had no record of fugitive emissions plumes on July 5 or July 27 and “has not been able to conduct a timely investigation” of those incidents.
In the settlement, ADEM said it was “aware of the efforts made by the permittee to minimize or mitigate the effects of these violations on the environment, but those efforts were not adequate to address the visible emissions and fugitive dust from sources identified in the Permit.”
The consent order, which was signed by Holcim Theodore Plant Manager Clay Copeland, represents a negotiated settlement between ADEM and the company. The company neither admits nor denies the Department’s contentions but resolves the alleged violations.
“The Department has agreed to the terms of this consent order in an effort to resolve the alleged violations cited herein without the unwarranted expenditure of State resources in further prosecuting the above violations,” the order states. “The Department has determined that the terms contemplated in this Consent Order are in the best interests of the citizens of Alabama.”