EPA takes dim view of Peach Springs lime plant

PEACH SPRINGS - The Chemical Lime Company Nelson Lime Plant in Peach Springs is one of six Arizona facilities being targeted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for pollution controls to improve visibility at national parks and wilderness areas.

The EPA's plan would limit nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions at the lime plant and the other five facilities. The EPA estimates the plan overall would reduce sulfur dioxide by almost 30,000 tons per year and nitrogen oxides by 3,100 tons per year at all the locations.

Margot Perez-Sullivan, a spokesperson for the EPA in San Francisco, said the agency is acting under the Clean Air Act, which directs the EPA to protect the visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas, designated as Class I areas. The targeted companies' pollutants contribute to visibility impairment in 17 protected national parks and wilderness areas in Arizona and neighboring states.

"Arizona has a wealth of these areas and people travel from all over the world to enjoy the vistas at these national parks," said Perez-Sullivan. "Sometimes the views are obscured by haze, which is air pollution composed of small particles that scatter light, limiting what we see. Sources of haze include motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial and manufacturing processes. If we reduce the emissions that cause haze, we improve the views that people come to enjoy."

Officials from Chem Lime Nelson, which is owned by Lhoist North America and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, did not return calls for comment on Friday.

Perez-Sullivan said visibility improvements are measured in deciviews, and a difference of 0.5 to 1.0 deciviews is a perceptible change. In the case of Chem Lime Nelson, said Perez-Sullivan, the closest national park to the facility is the Grand Canyon. According to the EPA's analysis, there is a perceptible visibility impact of 1.79 deciviews from Chem Lime Nelson on the Grand Canyon.

Also, there are eight other Class I areas around Chem Lime Nelson, said Perez-Sullivan, which means the company has a cumulative impact of 3.3 deciviews on nine Class I areas within about 200 miles of it. Those include Petrified Forest National Park, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness and Pine Mountain Wilderness in Arizona, and Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah.

According to the company's latest air quality permit filed with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Chem Lime Nelson manufactures lime from limestone. It features a quarry mining operation, a limestone crushing and screening operation, a limestone kiln feed system, a solid-fuel handling system, two rotary lime kilns, a lime hydrator, diesel electric generators and fuel storage tanks.

The facility is classified as a major source of pollutants under the Arizona Title V program, which is administered by the ADEQ. This program requires major stationary sources of air pollution to obtain operating permits that assure compliance with all applicable federal air pollution control requirements. According to ADEQ, its levels of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides exceed state and federal thresholds.

Perez-Sullivan said the EPA is taking action now with the six companies because the state's Regional Haze Plan to control air pollution was partially approved and partially disapproved in July for not meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Act and the EPA's Regional Haze Rule. As a result, the EPA had to analyze concerns at the six companies, including kilns 1 and 2 at Chem Lime Nelson, and develop federal requirements for those parts of the state plan that were disapproved.

"Chem Lime is one of six facilities statewide this proposal is addressing," said Perez-Sullivan. "ADEQ and the EPA are addressing visibility impacts statewide through these regional haze proposals. After the public hearings and comment period, we will finalize and at that point, will know the exact timing the facilities have to address regional haze."

The other companies earmarked for pollution controls are Tucson Electric Power's Sundt Plant, ASARCO's Hayden Smelter, Freeport McMoran's Miami Smelter, Phoenix Cement Company's Clarkdale plant and CalPortland Cement Company's Rillito plant.

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