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Consultant: Lehigh Emissions Health Risk Small

The report sought by Los Altos and Los Altos Hills analyzing the data collected in the air and in Permanente Creek is released and a public forum is scheduled for Feb. 6.

The risk of adverse health effects from the Lehigh Southwest Cement Plant on Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents is small, a consultant retained by the cities has reported.

The report, a technical memo that reviews all data about Lehigh is posted on South Bay Quarry Library, a website that both cities created to gather all known reports on the quarry.

It will be discussed at a public forum on Monday in the Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 6 to 8:30 p.m. 

"The paraphrased opinion is that, while not zero, the estimated health risks to Los Altos Los Altos Hills residents due to the quarry’s emissions are considered to be small," said Los Altos Hills Vice Mayor Gary Waldeck. Waldeck, with Los Altos City Council members Ron Packard and David Casas formed an ad-hoc committee to investigate concerns raised by residents of both communities.

The consultant, Iris Environmental of Oakland, was hired for $28,000 to assess available Lehigh quarry test data and to deliver an independent analysis and opinion of the results. 

Waldeck said no analysis was made or offered for other locations, such as the cities of Cupertino, which is adjacent to the quarry or to Mountain View, through which Permanente Creek flows toward the Bay.

Iris Environmental reported that they also examined the test methodologies used by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and Lehigh’s own data collection methods. Iris agreed with the procedures used. They also examined the wind dispersion model used to predict the plant’s airborne effluent dispersion patterns and concurred in its usage as well.

Lastly, they collected and analyzed one water and one sediment sample taken from Permanente Creek at a site downstream from the quarry.

Though a single sample is not sufficient to come to a conclusion, the intent was to obtain a snapshot of the environment near the quarry to help independently assess the veracity of other data, Waldeck said.

Iris Environmental also cited and considered existing management district directives applied to the quarry and suggested continued monitoring to ensure that systemic upgrades continue as planned, Waldeck said.

Representatives of Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will be on hand at Monday's meeting.

Gary Latshaw February 04, 2012 at 02:47 AM
As a Cupertino resident, I find reading the Iris Environmental report much more disturbing than Los Altos Hills Vice Mayor Gary Waldeck has found. The report reveals many environmental insults from the Cement Plant. Gary Waldeck is quoted that health air quality health risk assessment “are considered to be small.” The analysis does state that the health risk assessment, which was based on production of 951,790 tons of clinker, did produce a risk level that was below the Bay Area Air Quality Management District public notification level. However, the report goes on to say that at full production levels and without improvements, the risk level will be above the notification level. More importantly, the statements in the article do not address the reported excessive measurements of arsenic and vanadium in the Permanente Creek sentiments (see Table 1, Appendix A). Also, the Creek water measurements revealed excessive levels of Molybdenum. The measurements of selenium, which was discussed in the report as having been determined as excessive by the Water Quality District, were not measured to the sensitivity necessary to detect violations of the Clean Water Act. As shown in the table, while the selenium levels were below 0.02 mg/L, which is the limit of detectability of the methods used. However, the water quality standard is to be below 0.005 mg/L so violations could have occurred, but not detected.
Frank Geefay February 06, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Lehigh is currently operating at about half capacity due to the poor economy, so as Gary indicates emissions are much lower now than they will be in the future when Lehigh operates at peak capacity. Selenium and other chemical levels in the Creek water are also at their lowest levels due to our very dry winter with very little water runoff. This results in much lower levels of such chemicals than in a more normal or wet year. These unusual times uncharacteristically produce much lower levels of toxic contaminants in our air and water then when the economy recovers and Lehigh operates at peak capacity most of the time as in the past or when the weather is not so dry. Current indicators fool people into a false and dangerous sense of safety.
Susan February 06, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Feb. 7th Cupertino City Council agenda, Item 26: "Authorize the Mayor to send a letter to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District requesting that the District reconsider the designation of Lehigh cement plant, so that the plant would be regulated in a manner appropriate to a new or remodeled facility. Provide direction to staff." (see uploaded PDF of draft letter)
kimberley Hildebrandt February 10, 2012 at 05:48 AM
This article was very informative. Thank You.

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