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Lehigh Cement Co.

The Lehigh Cement Co. is seen in 2009 in Glens Falls. The plant is looking to update its air permit to allow for the burning of raggertail, a kind of recycled paper and plastic material.

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — The village that takes the brunt of the chemicals sent into the air from Lehigh Northeast Cement Co. in Glens Falls is objecting to a proposal to burn plastic there.

While the plastic burning could reduce the amount of coal burned at the plant, it’s still not a great idea, village officials said at Wednesday’s Village Board meeting.

“They say it will reduce the carbon footprint, but ...” said South Glens Falls Mayor Harry Gutheil, who isn’t happy with the pollution already being sent into the air.

“I don’t think the air quality is where it should be,” he said.

Board member Tony Girard agreed.

“We’re going in the wrong direction with our air quality,” he said. “And we live here. When the wind blows, it blows to us.”

Lehigh is seeking state Department of Environmental Conservation approval to burn an “alternative fuel” of paper and plastic. That will reduce the plant’s reliance on burning coal and natural gas, which should reduce air emissions.

DEC has granted tentative approval but is now awaiting comments from the public before making a final decision.

John Brodt, vice president of Behan Communications and a spokesman for Lehigh, did not have specific numbers for how much the new fuel is expected to reduce emissions but said there would be reductions overall.

That left South Glens Falls board members with a lot of questions. Gutheil said he doesn’t have the technical expertise to know whether the change would be good for the village’s air quality. The comment period ends Dec. 21, so officials need to figure it out soon. Board members are so concerned that they plan to ask engineers to read the report and give them a layman’s version.

Brodt, in an email Thursday, said the fuel product Lehigh wants to use has been reviewed and approved for industrial use by DEC, and the department’s review of emissions testing data from Lehigh concluded that the plant will not exceed state air emissions guideline concentrations.

The cement plant’s air emissions, like for all manufacturers, are subject to regulation based on state-designated parameters to protect public health and the environment, Brodt wrote.

“We have not been contacted by Mayor Gutheil, but welcome the opportunity to talk with him,” Brodt stated.

No other municipalities seem to be studying the issue.

“This shouldn’t come down to just us,” Gutheil complained, saying that the greater Glens Falls area should be discussing it together.

Unless they get significant information to change their minds, board members are opposed. They agreed that, on its face, the plan was not a reasonable improvement to the plant’s occasional burning of coal.

“It just looks like plastic garbage when you look at it online,” said board member Nick Bodkin.

Board members don’t want that going into the air.

“Let’s be very careful here,” Gutheil said. “I still have an uneasiness, burning plastics.”

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You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.

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