RAVENA–Environmental activist Erin Brockovich will be one of the guests at a meeting Friday September 11, at 7 p.m. at Ravena-Coeyman-Selkirk High School to discuss the Lafarge Cement Plant in Ravena. Prevailing winds can carry emissions from the plant, one of the largest sources of airborne mercury, over northern Columbia and southern Rensselaer counties.
The town hall style meeting will be conducted by the New York City law firm Weitz and Luxenberg. P.C. and will also feature Dr. Mark Hyman, MD. Speakers will talk about the potential impact and options for addressing air pollution issues, and there will be an opportunity for the public to ask questions.
The LaFarge plant is seeking renewal of its air quality permit and has proposed installing new pollution control measures as part of a modernization project at the coal-fired cement plant. It also has a permit to burn old tires as fuel. The company describes itself as the largest diversified supplier of construction materials in the U.S. and Canada. It employs 84,000 people in 79 countries worldwide. The website of the Albany Times Union, timesunion.com, reported early this year that the company planned to lay off 39 workers because of dropping demand for cement, leaving 180 workers still employed at the Ravena plant.
The factory and quarry lie across the Hudson River from the Towns of Stuyvesant and Schodack. And local officials in northern Columbia County have expressed concern over the possibility that pollutants are affecting their towns and have asked that more data be collected to assess the risks.
One of the local groups planning to be present at the event is Friends of Hudson. Although the group’s director, Susan Falzon, says Friends of Hudson is not a sponsor of the meeting, she said in a brief phone interview this week, “We’re all working toward the same end.”
The Friends of Hudson website, www.friendsofhudson.com, says that Ms. Brockovich, who is associated with Weitz and Luxenberg, has taken a particular interest in Ravena because of the health concerns of the community. “Government is often absent when polluters need to be held accountable for poisoning the environment. And, invariably, we the people have to find some way to clean up the mess,” Ms. Brockovich said in a release on the website. Ms. Brockovich, whose fight against pollution in California led to a Hollywood movie bearing her name, is described in a flier from the law firm as “a paid, non-lawyer endorser.”
Friends of Hudson, which led the successful fight to prevent construction of a large cement plant in Greenport and Hudson by St. Lawrence Cement, got involved in the Lafarge issue after Lafarge applied in 2003 for a permit to burn tires at Ravena. The group has identified what it believes are problems with the air quality permit renewal application is waiting to see whether its concerns will be addressed in a revised application and in a final Draft Environmental Impact Statement filed with the state for the modernization project.
Friends of Hudson is also among the plaintiffs represented by EarthJustice in numerous lawsuits seeking to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency to limit emissions of hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, from Portland cement plants, as required by the federal Clean Air Act.
Friends of Hudson has worked with CASE (Community Advocates for Safe Emissions) in Ravena and SCRAP (Selkirk Coeymans Ravena Against Pollution) to bring research and concerns about Lafarge to the attention of the public and government agencies.
The Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School Auditorium is at 2025 Route 9W, Ravena, 0ne mile north of the center of the village on the southbound side of 9W.