GLENS FALLS — Lehigh Northeast Cement Company is seeking changes to its air emissions permit that would allow it to burn an alternative fuel made from paper and plastic byproducts at a recycled paper mill.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has “made a tentative determination to approve” the change, but the draft permit is open for public comment until Dec. 21. The DEC will also accept requests to hold a public hearing before the draft is approved.
The paper material is made up of about 60 percent plastic and 40 percent fiber, a mixture commonly referred to in the business as raggertail. John Brodt, vice president of Behan Communications and a spokesman for Lehigh, said the paper mixture will be a secondary energy source to natural gas and coal.
“Lehigh is doing this because it’s good for both the environment and the economic health of the plant,” Brodt said. “Raggertail has an energy component to it that makes it an attractive alternative fuel that can safely replace some of the fossil fuel that we’re using to power our kiln now, and by doing so, Lehigh will reduce its total air emissions, reduce its use of fossil fuel, conserve landfill space, because this is material that has traditionally over the years been landfilled, and reduces our costs.”
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He did not have specific numbers for how much the new fuel is expected to reduce emissions but said there will be reductions overall.
The cement company will continue to test its air quality per its permit, Brodt added, to ensure compliance. Besides fossil fuels, Lehigh emits ammonia, mercury compounds and other chemicals into the air, all things that are monitored. Lehigh’s air quality data is available through a public database called the toxics release inventory on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
According to the DEC’s environmental notice bulletin, a trial test of raggertail at the Glens Falls plant “demonstrated that its use will not cause ambient impacts above state guideline concentrations.”
The material will be brought here from a recycled paper company in western New York. Brodt said there isn’t a recycling company closer to Glens Falls that offers the product.