Holcim (US) Inc. held a ground-breaking ceremony at its Hagerstown, Md., plant on July 21, officially kicking off a two-year, $95 million modernization project that will reduce the plant’s environmental footprint, reported the Herald-Mail. The project includes shortening the plant’s existing rotating kiln, replacing the current cooler with an energy-efficient one, and installing a heat transfer tower over the top of the remaining kiln.

In addition to creating between 200 and 300 construction jobs during peak construction, the plant modernization will decrease nitrogen oxide emissions by an estimated 60 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by about 48 percent.

Speakers during the ceremony included U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), Holcim executive Filberto Ruiz, Swiss ambassador to the United States Manuel Sager, Washington County Commissioner Terry L. Baker and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

Holcim’s continued investment will help the company continue to meet demands in the United States, where infrastructure reinvestment has become a national priority, noted Ruiz. Delaney has been a vocal proponent of making a big investment in U.S. infrastructure, as evidenced by his bipartisan bill that could fund $750 billion worth of projects if passed into law. “This is a significant commitment to this region,” Delaney told those in attendance, highlighting having locally made materials for large infrastructure jobs a huge bonus for the region and the country.

The modernization project comes after Holcim was hit with Clean Air Act violations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year. Holcim – and the plant's former owner, St. Lawrence Cement Co. LLC – agreed to a settlement with the EPA and planned to invest $20 million or more to upgrade the Hagerstown plant to significantly reduce nitrogen and sulfur-dioxide emissions.

The settlement, reached in July 2013, required Holcim to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions by 230 tpy and nitrogen oxides by 92 tpy by Sept. 9, 2016. According to Hagerstown Plant Manager Fernando Valencia, the company’s investment was not prompted by the EPA sanctions. “This project is being done because it's the right thing to do.”

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