Cement, water, CCA to stay in spotlight

Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 10:23 p.m.
Wood, water and air will continue to dominate North Central Florida's environmental agenda in 2003.
This month, after more than three years of opposition and contentious debate, the Suwannee American Cement plant in southern Suwannee County is scheduled to begin production. The $130 million plant, 3 miles from the Ichetucknee River near Branford, will produce 1 million tons of cement annually, and be permitted to emit thousands of tons of pollutants, including carbon dioxide and 97 pounds of mercury a year.
The plant will most likely be co-owned by Anderson Columbia Co. Inc., a state highway contractor, and Votorantim Cement, a Brazilian conglomerate, and managed by Votorantim.
Also on the cement front, Alachua County Environmental Protection Department officials will continue monitoring air quality in the vicinity of Florida Rock Industries' Newberry plant. In September, county officials announced the discovery of two potentially harmful pollutants in air tests near the plant, but have yet to determine where the chemicals - 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene and Hexachlorobutadiene - originated.
While air issues will no doubt gain a piece of the environmental spotlight next year, debates on how to protect surface and subsurface waterways are expected to become heated.
In June, the state Department of Environmental Protection issued its "impaired" waters report, a list of lakes, streams and estuaries in greatest need of cleanup. But already, some state and local interests have differed on what the rule implies, and to what degree and body of water must be protected.
"There will be some developments in terms of waters that have been designated as impacted," said Chris Bird, director of the county's environmental department.
For example, under the rule, every state waterway is designated with specific threshold limits for certain pollutants, such as nutrient, mercury and turbidity levels. What is less clear, he says, is what percentage each contributor to water pollution is permitted to emit.
As a result: "We can probably anticipate some differences of opinion in terms of which polluter gets how big of an allocation," Bird said.
To answer some of these questions, Bird said he will be meeting throughout the year with industry experts, area land planners and county staff to discuss ways to address water quality and best management practice concerns. In addition, state and area clean-water advocates are expected to gather in January and February for a series of conferences and discussions on protection goals for the state's freshwater springs.
And finally, in what seems to be the never-ending environmental story, chromated copper arsenate-treated wood will remain a headline grabber in 2003. Last month, after the discovery of arsenic-tainted lumber in landscape mulch, researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Miami began a statewide study of commercially available mulch products.
Initial results are expected in late spring, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is planning to introduce legislation to ban the use of CCA in landscape products.
Still, efforts to remove CCA from the residential mulch stream may be for not.
In December, President Bush released a list of federal regulations the administration may rescind or modify in the coming year - among them, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's rule announced last February to ban CCA from the residential market by 2004.
Expect a deluge of class action and personal injury lawsuits if the EPA complies.
Greg Bruno can be reached at 374-5026 or greg.bruno@gvillesun.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top