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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces $7.5 Million Settlement With Lehigh Cement For Environmental Violations

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice, today announced a $7.5 million settlement with Lehigh Cement to resolve allegations of environmental violations. The settlement requires that the Lehigh cement plant near Cupertino reduce toxic discharges to Permanente Creek, a tributary to San Francisco Bay, and pay $2.55 million in civil penalties.

"Lehigh Cement discharged millions of gallons of industrial wastewater that flowed into the San Francisco Bay," said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.  "This settlement holds Lehigh Cement accountable for its actions and will prevent future toxic discharges.  I thank our state and federal partners for their work to protect this precious resource and consumers from the serious environmental and health damage caused by water pollution.”

“Today’s Clean Water Act settlement, done jointly with the state of California, will remove selenium and other toxic substances from Permanente Creek and help protect the fragile and life-sustaining ecosystem of San Francisco Bay,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “By bringing this older facility up to contemporary standards, and by pushing it to introduce cutting-edge treatment technology, the Department of Justice and our partners are helping create a level playing field, where all industry members are held to the same standards and no company can gain an economic advantage over its competitors by shortchanging environmental compliance.”

“EPA and California are working together to enforce the Clean Water Act and help restore San Francisco Bay,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Every action we take to remove selenium and other toxic metals improves water quality and leads to a healthier and more resilient Bay.”

“This settlement will result in important reductions in pollutant discharges, in facility upgrades, and in improvements to help protect and restore water quality in Permanente Creek and San Francisco Bay,” said Bruce Wolfe, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board Executive Officer. “We will continue our multiagency efforts to regulate all water quality aspects of this facility, including installation of the full-scale wastewater treatment system, restoration of stream habitat, and control of stormwater runoff.” 

As part of the settlement, the cement plant, owned by Hanson Permanente Cement Inc. and operated by Lehigh Southwest Cement Co., will spend more than $5 million to install wastewater treatment to significantly reduce its selenium discharges. In addition, Lehigh and Hanson will be required to make other facility improvements to prevent future violations.

Over a five-year period, Lehigh’s limestone mine and cement plant discharged millions of gallons daily of quarry process water and stormwater polluted with thousands of pounds of sediment, and hundreds of pounds of selenium and other toxic metals, into Permanente Creek, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The proposed Clean Water Act settlement, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval. Details of the settlement are available at: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

 

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