DUNDEE - A Dundee cement manufacturer has begun putting together the additional equipment needed so it can burn a number of industrial wastes and sludges within the next six months.
Holcim, Inc. began construction on a number of storage tanks around the Day Road plant last week, plant environmental manager Tim Schlosser said.
Meanwhile, the ad-hoc Holcim Community Advisory Committee, a citizens' group that meets regularly with plant officials to discuss concerns, will meet at 5:30 today at the plant to go over the new fuels scheduled to be used.
The company's plans call for construction of four 39,000-gallon tanks that will be used to hold and deliver the liquid fuels to its kilns. The fuel, a mix of things like oils, lubricants, and other non-hazardous liquids, will be mixed together at a subsidiary firm in Detroit and then trucked to the Dundee plant for use, Mr. Schlosser said.
"One of the keys to the [alternative] fuels is having a consistent mix as well as having a large supply," Mr. Schlosser said. The oils are largely waste by-products that are gleaned from manufacturing and machining firms in the surrounding area.
Holcim, Inc. applied for a permit in November 2001 from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's air quality division to use a broad range of what it called "alternative fuels " to fire the cement kilns in its Dundee plant. A draft copy of the permit was issued in June 2003, and the final permit was issued in December 2003 by MDEQ.
Mr. Schlosser said the firm has spent much of the first half of this year adding additional scrubbing and monitoring equipment to the facility's emissions stacks to make sure there are no deleterious effects on the local air quality. The total project is about $1.6 million.
"The reason we've gone with the alternative fuels process is that it has a 99.99 percent destruction removal efficiency," Mr. Schlosser explained, adding that the plant's neighbors "won't notice any change" to the emissions from the plant.
Holcim already had state approval to burn other types of high-energy alternative fuels, including scrap tires and bottom ash from area power plants. The plant, which has about 200 employees, produces about 1.1 million tons of cement annually, and is one of 14 plants operated in the United States by Holcim, Ltd. of Switzerland.
Pam Ackerman, a member of the Community Advisory Committee and a downwind neighbor of the plant, credited the firm with sharing their plans with the community and openly accepting both suggestions and concerns about those plans.
"From what we've been told at the previous meetings, everything should burn completely and clean," Mrs. Ackerman said. "I feel comfortable with the people that show up at the meetings. There are technical people there that aren't [associated] so much with the plant."
Using the waste materials to fuel the extremely hot cement kilns allows the wastes to be almost completely combusted, keeps those materials from having to be otherwise disposed of, and cuts down on the amounts of traditional fuels that would otherwise be needed to fire its kilns. Holcim officials said each material used to fire the kilns would undergo testing to ensure that it can be burned cleanly.
The DEQ permit does set strict limits on what types of materials can be consumed by the company's kilns, as well as their chemical composition. Radioactive materials, municipal solid wastes, biologial or infectious wastes, and asbestos of any kind are strictly prohibited, and levels of contaminants such as chloride and PCBs are capped.
Holcim (US), Inc. is wholly owned by Holderbank Financiere Glaris Ltd of Switzerland. The Dundee facility is situated on about 2,000 acres that is zoned heavy industrial, almost a quarter of which consists of a quarry mining operation that supplies limestone and clay to the plant.
The plant was built in 1958 under the name of Dundee Cement, although it was then owned by the same Swiss company. It was renamed Holnam, Inc, in 1990, and took on its current moniker in 2001.
The plant produces both bulk and bagged cement, and when it first began operating in 1960, the 1.2 million ton facility was the largest cement plant in North America, with the largest mills and kilns.