Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection voted unanimously to allow Dragon Products Co.’s cement plant in Thomaston to increase its mercury emissions from 25 lb. per year to the federal annual limit of 42 lb., reports the Portland Press Herald.

An official from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection said the amendment to the company’s air emission license means that Dragon Products would be allowed to emit 42 lb. per year, but only if the company increased cement production above current levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency increased the maximum mercury emissions limit for cement plants in 2010, based on an analysis of emissions produced by some of the best-controlled cement kilns in the country, said Marc A.R. Cone, director of the DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality. The DEP supported Dragon’s emissions-limits request.

Cone said market conditions will dictate how much cement the company produces. A 2008 state law had capped mercury emissions at 25 lb. a year for the plant. “We feel this standard (42 lb.) is protective of the public’s health,” Cone explained. “If they remain at the lower levels of production, their emission limit will be lower.”

Under its new emissions license, Dragon Cement Products will be required to install a mercury emissions monitor in its emission stacks, a new regulation that will provide the DEP with “real-time data,” Cone said.

According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Dragon Cement Products emitted at least 13 lb. of mercury into the air in 2011-12.

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