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EPA, Ash Grove Cement Reach Agreement On Air Pollution Controls

OPB | June 19, 2013 5:17 p.m. | Updated: June 20, 2013 8:31 a.m. | Portland

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An Ash Grove cement factory in Seattle, Washington.

An Ash Grove cement factory in Seattle, Washington.

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia

The air surrounding one of Eastern Oregon’s largest manufacturing plants should get a little cleaner, under a settlement announced Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The E.P.A. and Ash Grove Cement Company have reached a $30 million deal to clean up the company’s cement facility in Durkee, near the Idaho border. It needs to install a new kind of pollution control system, aimed at reducing nitrogen oxide emissions.

It’s part of a consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency affecting nine Ash Grove plants from Seattle to Arkansas.

Ash Grove agrees to pay a $2.5 million penalty – and spend $30 million on its facilities.

Manufacturing vice president Mike Hrizuk says the company was the target of an EPA initiative, aimed at the cement industry.

“We contend that we’ve complied with the Clean Air Act, and we’ve worked to reduce our environmental impact. But at the same time, the initiative has been quite costly for Ash Grove – there’s a significant amount of time and effort involved in this. Rather than continue to debate with the EPA, we believe our efforts are better spent collaborating to find ways to reduce our environmental footprint.”

Hrizuk says the company will spend more than $1.2 million at the Oregon facility on new pollution controls. He anticipates a 21-percent reduction in nitrogen oxide.

Environmental regulators hope for even more.

Mark Bailey is the air quality manager in the Bend office for Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“Based on what they’re currently putting out – it’s going to be about half, I think it’s going to be yeah, cutting it in half.”

Bailey says this is the first significant effort to reduce nitrogen oxide — or NOx — at the Durkee plant.

“I’m very excited about a reduction in those NOx pollutants from that facility — because those NOx pollutants can lead to acid rain formation, ozone formation.”

But Bailey says when it comes to other air quality problems — like haze — the new pollution controls may have little effect. That’s because there are other contributors, like all the cars going by on nearby Interstate 84.

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