Florida environmental regulators are preparing to temporarily renew the air operation permit for Cemex's Brooksville South cement plant, and residents are protesting, reported the Tampa Bay Times.

Because of the opposition, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is hosting a community open house from 5 to 7 p.m., Oct. 1, at the Lake House on Kenlake Avenue in Spring Hill.

At the open house, residents will be able to talk one-on-one with DEP personnel; they also may submit written comments and concerns to the agency. The agency has already received letters from the Neighbors Against Mining group and more than three dozen other organizations and individuals.

"The concern we have is that it's the same old permit that we've had all along, and it's no good. It's a threat to public health,” said DeeVon Quirolo of Neighbors Against Mining. "It's a short-term permit that extends the operation of the plant, extends the things that have been bad for a long time.''

Quirolo said the Cemex plant is obsolete and has been cited 19 times since 2002 for emissions that violate air quality standards, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for allowing the release of higher-than-acceptable levels of the toxin mercury.

The Brooksville South cement plant operates two portland cement manufacturing lines that are fueled by coal and biomass, including wood and peanut shells. Cemex spokeswoman Sara Engdahl maintained that the plant is not obsolete. “Both Cemex Brooksville South cement plant kilns utilize modern cement manufacturing technology designs,” said Engdahl, noting that kiln No. 2 is a new production line commissioned in 2008.

The advanced line includes a number of new emission-control technologies that will meet new emission limits set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “Cemex and its employees regard environmental compliance as an essential part of the day-to-day operations,'” Engdahl said.

The short-term permit will allow Cemex to continue operations until the new, more stringent EPA standards are put in place. Engdahl said the company already has its permits for the new emission control systems and is ready to install and operate them. The renewed air operation permit will require continuous monitoring.

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