Residents speak up against cement plant expansion plans


Roughly 53 people spoke at the meeting and many of them want the city council to draft a resolution opposing the plant from expanding its facility -- in essence, taking a stand against Lehigh.

"How can you guarantee, how can you assure to the community that it will be safe emission?" asked City Councilmember Barry Chang.

"I will move ahead and have the mercury emissions reduced at this facility way ahead of the deadline in 2013," said Lehigh plant manager Henrik Wesseling.

Talk of mercury and emissions filled Cupertino's city council chambers in an emotional meeting which involves the Lehigh Cement Plant - a company that's been a part of this community for 70 years. Now it wants to expand and some residents are against it, primarily for environmental reasons.

"The mercury emissions are going up not down. Mercury is deadly," said Bill Almon form Quarry No.

The group, Quarry No, opposes the plant and wants the city council to draft a resolution formally opposing the expansion. They hope that will have an impact on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors when they take up the expansion issue next year.

"As a city, we're the closest to this plant. If we don't take a strong stand, why should we expect anyone else to?" said Cupertino resident Wallis Alviar.

But Lehigh insists they've always used the 89 acres of land in question for dumping and no permits or permission from the county is required.

"It's not unusual for people to have concerns in the community where we do operate and I think for most people the more they learn, the more comfortable they are having us as a neighbor," said Marvin Howell from Lehigh.

Barbara Jones doesn't mind having Lehigh as a neighbor.

"It's very important we have industries like Lehigh, they do pay taxes and they provide us with an essential ingredient to living in the Bay Area and that's our concrete," said Jones.

The council can't take any formal action right now since no actual letter or resolution has been drafted. So based on what was decided Tuesday night, they could direct staff to write up a resolution and then vote on that or they can decide to scrap the whole thing all together.

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