State gives its OK to proposed plant in Ste. Gen County

Saturday, November 16, 2002

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has granted a conditional go-ahead to a Swiss company that wants to build the nation's largest cement plant in Missouri.

An environmental group said the state caved in to pressure in granting clean-water certification to Holcim Inc. for the proposed plant 59 miles north of Cape Girardeau.

Ted Heisel, law and policy coordinator for the Coalition for the Environment, said the conditional approval "basically acknowledged that there are a lot of unresolved issues."

"The agency has not looked very hard at how many miles of streams that are going to be totally obliterated by this project," Heisel said Thursday.

Ken Fields, a spokesman for Holcim, said the DNR's decision reaffirmed the company's position that the project will not hurt the waters of the state. He said it would bring many jobs to the area.

Fields said Holcim was reviewing the conditions that the department attached to the certification.

Holcim, based in Switzerland, wants to build the cement plant on the Mississippi River in Ste. Genevieve County. The company would mine limestone for 100 years from the now-wooded countryside, eventually creating a 1,300-acre quarry.

Gradual reclamation

The quarry would gradually be reclaimed so that no more than 200 acres would be actively mined at any one time. Each year, Holcim would ship about 3.2 million tons of cement from a new harbor that would be created near the plant.

Late Wednesday, DNR's water pollution control program issued a certification that said the cement plant's activities would not adversely affect rivers and streams.

But the agency also attached conditions to the approval.

For example, Holcim would have to monitor the aquatic populations in restored streams. If two years after the restoration, the populations differed significantly from the original streams', quarrying in the streams' watershed would cease until the degradation was corrected.

An assessment of the plant's effect on navigable waters is still under way.

Holcim still needs permits relating to air emissions, mining and storm-water runoff.

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