Silicon Valley cement plant could shut down for good - San José Spotlight

2023-01-03 12:44:38 By : Ms. Lacey Zhang

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An embattled cement plant near Cupertino might lose its permit to operate next year. Calcium Hydroxide Grinding Mill

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this month to start a process to consider revoking or amending Lehigh Southwest Cement Company’s use permit. The decision comes roughly a month after the company announced it would permanently shut down its cement kiln at its 3,510-acre Permanente Quarry and Cement Plant. Lehigh is the only cement manufacturer in the Bay Area. It currently operates as a cement distribution location.

“I have been encouraged that the folks at Lehigh have stepped up and said, ‘We’re going to stop making cement at the plant,’ but that’s not a legally binding commitment,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian told San José Spotlight. “How can we be sure that’s real and lasting?”

Simitian, who represents the area, has been a leading critic of the plant’s regulatory violations and detrimental effects on the environment. At Simitian’s urging, the county produced a report detailing how the cement operation has accumulated more than 2,100 violations from different regulatory agencies over the past decade—with more than 100 deemed serious violations. The operation has been a subject of resident complaints for decades.

Simitian said his ultimate goal is to close the cement plant, stop the mining operation in the quarry and eventually restore and reclaim the property. He hopes Lehigh works with the county to resolve the issue.

“If we can negotiate a settlement that gives us guarantees, it’d be better because that’s more certainty and could conceivably take less time,” Simitian said.

Company spokesperson Jeff Sieg did not respond to requests for comment. Earlier this month, a representative of the company urged local policymakers to halt the process.

“Any concerns related to a public nuisance or violations of the use permit simply no longer exist because Lehigh will not restart cement production,” Patrick G. Mitchell, a lawyer representing the company, said in a statement. “Further investigation of this issue would waste valuable time and effort of all the parties, which would be much better spent focused on working collaboratively with Lehigh to plan for the future of the Perm Site.”

The cement plant dates back to around 1939, but limestone has been mined from the quarry since the early 1900s. The quarry resides in unincorporated Santa Clara County and parts of Cupertino and Palo Alto. Cement from the Lehigh site has been used to build major projects around the Bay Area and the state, including Mineta San Jose International Airport and the Golden Gate Bridge, the company said.

If Lehigh and the county fail to come to an agreement soon, the Santa Clara County Planning Commission will host a public hearing to look into the company’s legal violations. The commission will also determine if the operation is a public nuisance and potentially revoke Lehigh’s permit. This would legally prevent the company from producing cement.

More than 300 Santa Clara County residents wrote to supervisors in support of the decision to revoke or modify Lehigh’s permit, citing decades of noise, dust, air and water pollution, among other things.

Brian Schmidt, policy and advocacy director at preservation group Green Foothills, applauds the county’s effort to scrutinize the cement plant operation.

“There’s clearly a long history of a lot of environmental violations here,” Schmidt told San José Spotlight. “The plant might have been in the right place a long time ago, but it’s not anymore. This is Silicon Valley, where tens of thousands people are living. It’s more than time for this to be shut down.”

Cupertino resident Rhoda Fry, who has advocated for the closure of the cement plant for more than a decade, hopes to see the county acquire the land.

“Lehigh has been putting profit ahead of people,” Fry told San José Spotlight. “We have subsidized this cement plant and quarry with our health for generations.”

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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Plant shuts down. Concrete gets more expensive. People complain about lack of affordable housing.

Build affordable housing somewhere else that is less expensive!

You build houses where jobs are, not out in the middle of nowhere “where its cheap.”

So the Bay Area will still use large amounts of cement for it’s building needs, but where will production be out sourced to? No doubt a location with lower incomes/less political power/higher tolerance for pollution.

The supervisors really want to feel like they are in control. Sounds Simitian wants it to look like he played a role in shutting down the cement plant when it was actually the cement plant operators who freely chose to shut down. The supervisors ought to spend their time on more urgent matters. A waste of time and tax payer money.

I think it’s funny how Permanente rock/concrete plant was here way before the complainers had a house here. They built the bay area and people knew where the plant was. The train from the plant went up in the a.m. and down in the p.m.You didn’t have to buy a house in the foothills next to the plant or on Steven’s ck road coming from the dam. That’s like buying a home on a golf course and getting mad when balls keep hitting your roof , breaking windows and ending up in your yard. But, I was born here in 1962 and I’ve see major growth and development in my years here and that quarry has out lasted its days. It’s dangerous driving up towards the dam with dump trucks full of rock coming and going. I will not ride my bike up towards the dam on Steven’s ck rd. because there’s no room on the side of the road for anything other than an ant! Death ride! The P-3’s were a constant back in the days as was the concrete plant. It’s just sad that the quarry has destroyed so much of the mountain in the process. Hopefully the county will make it into a Mt. Bike park etc.

Who owns the company NOW? I heard foreign companies????

I worked at Stevens Creek quarry for 22 years the other smaller quarry beside the dam. The same thing was happening to then in the early 2000s. They company had to pay enormous amounts of money to keep there mining operation going. The people who are home owners up on that hillside are super wealthy. They get a little dust in there windows and it’s call the county nearly every week. What the wealthy home owners don’t take into account is there are hard working men who are doing there best to make a living. Those quarry’s have been there since the 30s in kaiser case and like the gentleman stated they knew what was there before buying a home beside quarry’s. And about the bike lane there has been numerous cyclist hit and killed by truckers. It’s really sad. The frustrating part is the owners at Stevens Creek quarry had offered free of charge to designate a bike lane along the road. Apparently the country did not ok this. Not exactly sure why but that’s California for you.

Looks like a great place for a landfill. All those unwanted gifts and unrecycleable recycleables have to go somewhere. As for concrete, we can build adobe houses using the onsite clay.

If the cement plant wasn’t opened until 1939, how was its cement used to build the Golden Gate bridge, which was completed two years earlier?

Dave, please refrain from making intelligent comments–it will upset the folks…

Why was that zoned for housing in the first place if they were there first?

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