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Lehigh Cement Focus of Public Form on Monday

Public will be able to ask questions of officials about regulations and possible health and environmental effects of operations.

The crux of the controversy over the Lehigh Southwest Cement Plant and Quarry — what are the health and environmental effects on the region, if any — is the focus of a public information forum on Monday night, hosted by a j.

The public will get a chance to ask questions in writing of officials from the two cities, as well as the Bay Area Air Quality Control District (BAAQMD), during the meeting from 6 to 8:30 p.m., in the Los Altos Hills Council Chambers, 26379 Fremont Rd., in Los Altos Hills.

The event comes right on the heels of two major announcements a week apart from both sides of the Lehigh issue.

On Friday, May 27, the citizens group No Toxic Air filed a over the Supervisors’ for Lehigh’s mining operations on most of its quarry lands. The group is asking a court to throw out the vote, contending that the original decision was based on faulty evidence.

A week later, on Friday, June 3, to drastically reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent from its cement kiln in the foothills near Cupertino, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, more than 2 years before an EPA deadline.

Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong and Fifth District Supervisor Liz Kniss were at the announcement in Cupertino, praising Lehigh officials for their mercury reduction efforts. 

Even critics from both No Toxic Air and the Los Altos Hills-based Quarry No were complementary after the announcement, although they said they still had reservations.

“If it’s true, and there’s a way to verify it, it’s good news,” Cupertino Councilman, and No Toxic Air leader, Barry Chang told Patch on Saturday. 

Bill Almon of Quarry No also said he welcomed the news.

“I applaud their turnaround. Lehigh Southwest fought the new rule in court and in Congress on the basis it was unnecessary, unaffordable and impossible to meet. Looks like they got religion,” Almon said on Friday.

Both men, who plan on being at Monday’s meeting, contended that despite the new activated carbon injection system installed by Lehigh in late April, the company will still be above the EPA’s limit on mercury emissions that goes into effect in 2013.

The two also asserted that although reducing mercury is important, there are still other toxic chemicals either emitted by the plant, or discharged into Permanente Creek, that need scrutiny by government regulators.

The joint committee of Los Altos Mayor Ron Packard and Councilmember David Casas, and Los Altos Hills Councilmember Gary Waldeck, has been studying the Lehigh issue for nearly six months. Packard said on Saturday they are about to hire an independent consultant to review environmental data. He said he expects a second public meeting later this year to announce the consultant’s conclusions.

In February the committee called the South Bay Quarry Library, that includes hundreds of public documents pertaining to Lehigh and numerous government regulatory agencies.

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