A violation letter from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality was sent to the cement company near Trident Thursday as a first step in the enforcement process, said John Raudsep, a DEQ compliance inspector."Now they have a period of time to respond," Raudsep said. "We'll take the letter and review it and make the determination of why it happened. We'll take into account previous violations, previous history and impacts."
This is the second time Holcim has exceeded its permitted glass limits. Raudsep said the department took action against Holcim in June 2001 for a similar problem.
As a second offense, Holcim will likely face stricter penalties this time, he said, that could include fines or sponsorship of community projects.
"We took action, but it was what I considered at the time to be fairly reasonable," Raudsep said. "You've got to learn your lesson."
According to Holcim's two air-quality permits, the company can not burn more than 800 tons of post-consumer recycled glass in a 12-month rolling period. In October, Holcim had burned 841 tons of glass during the 12-month time frame.
Holcim environmental manager, Nicole Prokop, said the mistake occurred because she was recording the amount of glass used in metric tons and the state converted the numbers to standard tons. She also said the violation occurred because she was recording glass according to the calender year, rather than on a rolling calendar.
"Since that I've been tracking it so close," Prokop said. "We'll be working with the state to get this record-keeping issue resolved."
Since the violation occurred, the company has not used any recycled glass. Holcim substitutes recycled glass for silica sand to make its cement product.
To get back into compliance, Raudsep said, Holcim can not use recycled glass again until after June 1.
DEQ is also keeping an eye on Holcim's compliance with the opacity regulations in its air permits. Last year, Holcim spent more than 6 percent of its operating time in violation of those rules.
Raudsep has not fined the company because he said major equipment malfunctions causing that problem have been fixed.
"I don't expect to see it again," he said. "If I see it again, I'm going to say something is wrong."
Because of public concern about the plant, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office in Helena has also been watching Holcim and corresponding with the DEQ about enforcing its rules.
"I'm a big believer that you should be proactive and look at the data," said Betsy Wahl, an EPA employee. "I told John, with the permit coming out, they needed to look closely at the compliance of the facility and make sure they had all their ducks in a row."
Holcim has applied for air-quality and solid-waste permits to burn more than 100 tires for fuel at its cement plant near Trident.
Draft permits were issued by the DEQ at the end of March and the public comment period ends May 30.