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4 Key Issues to Keep In Mind About the Cenment Plant

1. Health risks

EPA fact sheets state that portland cement plants release 6 of the top 10 chemicals on the government's Most Hazardous Substances list, including the Top 3: arsenic, lead and mercury. The St. Lawrence Cement plant proposed for Greenport-Hudson would use coal as its main fuel, and have the capacity to burn tires and hazardous waste. Plants of this kind are known to emit tiny particles so small that even a bee can breathe them. The EPA states that "inhaling high concentrations of particulates can affect children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung diseases the most," raising troubling issues about childhood asthma and other health issues. With plans to move the main stack between two reservoirs, residents also have serious questions about the plant's effect on the water table.

2. Job loss

Though touted as a windfall for residents, no new, permanent jobs have been guaranteed for Columbia County. The company intends to shut down its Catskill plant, and the 140 workers there will have first shot at the 100 jobs expected here - a potential net loss of 40 jobs for the area.

3. Track record

St. Lawrence Cement has made very general promises about not "cutting corners," but sadly their track record elsewhere gives cause for doubt. The Toronto Star, which is Canada's largest newspaper, has described the company as "a major headache for residents." In recent years, SLC was fined $1.88 million in Canada "for conspiring to share sales of ready-mix concrete." And a Queens College study said the company's Mississauga plant "topped the list of kilns that created dioxin," a carcinogen, and one of the two "worst kilns that burns hazardous waste" in the Great Lakes region.

4. The river & region

Local residents and the DEC have made the reinvigoration of waterfront areas a top priority&emdash;while SLC proposes massive barge docks next to Hudson's long-awaited riverfront park, marina, and shops. Meanwhile, at least a dozen other projects (including the huge U.S. Generating plant in Athens) are in the works along the Hudson, turning back the clock by reindustrializing a National Heritage River. This trend, plus emissions that could travel as far as Berkshire, Dutchess, Greene, and other neighboring counties, make this proposal a region-wide issue.