A Chicago-based environmental group warns that the state of Indiana’s extension of an operating permit for a lime manufacturer in northwest Indiana could lead to significant air pollution in neighboring communities unless the state tightens permit requirements.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s proposed renewal of an operating permit for the Carmeuse Lime Inc. facility in Gary could expose communities in Indiana and Illinois to harmful emissions of air pollutants like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide if the agency does not tighten permit restrictions for the company.
ELPC said it does not oppose the renewal of the permit, but it said Carmeuse Lime Inc. has violated its current permit multiple times in the past and that IDEM should require the company to do more to ensure the public’s safety.
ELPC said it recommends IDEM amend the permit to require additional stack tests and continuous emission monitors on the five lime kilns, which are more than 50 years old and are the source of much of the air pollution from the facility.
The group said that, at a minimum, the permit should include a complete record of the company’s noncompliance issues since its last renewal, detailed information about the fuels used to operate its five kilns and improved reporting.
“Despite repeated violations of its air permit, IDEM proposes to renew Carmeuse Lime’s permit for another five years on largely the same terms,” said Mike Zoeller, senior attorney at ELPC. “IDEM should seize this opportunity to amend the permit to improve compliance and reduce harm to the surrounding overburdened communities. IDEM’s failure to toughen the permit renewal is tantamount to giving Carmeuse a green light to continue violating its permit with impunity.”
Carmeuse Lime Inc. first caught the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which investigated the company for multiple Clean Air Act violations in 2012. The company and EPA eventually came to an agreement where the company would pay a $50,000 civil penalty to settle those allegations.
In 2015, IDEM notified Carmeuse Lime Inc. that it had violated its permit by emitting excess sulfur dioxide and by failing to conduct emissions testing. The violation notice also said the company had submitted inaccurate information in its 2009 permit renewal application and in comments for the draft permit.
In 2019 IDEM issued the company a $6,250 civil penalty for excess emissions of lime and particulate matter and a $17,000 civil penalty for testing and recordkeeping violations.
IDEM records found on the agency’s Virtual File Cabinet include multiple permit violation notices for 2022, including a failure to maintain records for stack exhaust emissions and pressure drops and conducting emissions testing up to four months late.
Carmeuse Lime has said that lime production at plants can cause environmental impacts, but that those potential impacts are locally managed through permit conditions.
IDEM has said it may hold a public meeting to discuss the draft permit.