Letters to Editor
Boulder Weekly
Letters the week of 7/21/05

Burning Tires is Not Recycling

(Re: "Feud flares over tire meltdown," News, July 14.) Cemex, a foreign-owned cement plant located in Boulder County, has recently been given preliminary approval to burn scrap tires as part of their fuel source. The State of Colorado will pay Cemex to burn up to one million tires per year. Cemex has stated it is "thrilled to death" to begin burning tires, touting its potential contribution to Colorado's "recycling" efforts. Cemex would love for Boulder County residents to ignorantly sit back and swallow this toxic little pill. The reality is, however, burning scrap tires in a cement kiln is not "recycling."

True recycling of scrap tires would be reclaiming the tires and using them in the making of new products. A myriad of recycling options that would not harm the environment or compromise the health of Boulder County citizens currently exist. Scrap tires are being used to make rubberized asphalt concrete, playground equipment, mulch, floor and track surfacing, roofing and in earth ship homes. Tire shreds are being used in septic tank leach fields, frost barriers, over pass fill, retaining wall fill, roadway base fill, bridge abutment fill, highway edge drains and leachate and methane gas collection systems in landfills. Beyond recycling, new tire consumption can be decreased through proper tire maintenance and re-treading of tires.

I believe that Boulder County residents are not ignorant, particularly when it comes to environmental concerns, and that we won't swallow this nasty little pill without a fight. Burning tires and other waste materials in cement kilns is neither "recycling" nor environmentally sound waste disposal. Please let your local and state representatives know your concerns. Don't let Cemex be allowed to "thrill us to death."

Sara Bailey/Longmont

Boulder Weekly
Letters the week of 1/22/04

Dust hazard

Great reporting on the Cemex situation ("Concrete Evidence," cover story, Nov. 20). Your article has brought this hidden danger to the attention of many previously unaware citizens in the county.

Rachel Katz/via Internet

Boulder Weekly
Letters the week of 3/11/04

Shut them down

Boulder Weekly
Letters the week of 08/01/2002

Green rubber

I just read Pamela White's article on burnin' rubber in Boulder Weekly ("Burnin' rubber," News, July 25). We appreciated your excellent article in the paper. We are another environmental group located in Lyons. We have been involved in issues in this locale for several years.

First of all, Mr. Tom Abbott's credibility as a toxicologist came into question well over a year ago when he openly stated that there is nothing more toxic than peanut butter coming out of the stacks at Cemex. An unprofessional and misleading statement of this stature illustrates Mr. Abbott's lack of understanding of the most basic knowledge of the preliminary facts concerning this important issue for the surrounding community. Also, this is not an issue about coal mining and strip mining as Tom Abbot has repeatedly claimed. This is an issue of an international company wanting to reduce its operating costs at the possible serious detriment to the entire Boulder community since the air currents can carry emitted toxins throughout Boulder County. With his close relationship with Cemex in the past, he can hardly be considered neutral on this issue.

Also, Cemex officials continually say that they want to "recycle" old tires thereby providing the community with a service. There are many alternative ways to successfully recycle tires so they won't accumulate in land fills. The cement industry never talks about these "alternative uses" because they want to burn them as a cheaper fuel source. The state of California is currently operating a very successful program that crumbs tires and builds highways out of them.

I feel you were misled regarding the 1997 EPA study, and I would be happy to share with you our significant findings regarding this important document in relation to this critical issue.

Burning tires for fuel at Cemex would be very hazardous for our environment. I have read Pamela White's column for quite some time now, and know the environment is very important to her. There is a lot more information available regarding this issue. We think if you have the time to hear some actual facts from scientists that have studied this issue for years, you might find another story-the one that perhaps Cemex would like to leave unreported.

With respect,

Kenneth W. Dobbs/Environmental Justice Project/Lyons


I read the article "Burnin' rubber," and I want to thank Pamela White for following this issue.

My neighbors and I are very concerned at the proposal to burn tires at the Cemex plant. As you mentioned, the company cannot control the pollution problems it already has with the dust clouds. This is a multi-billion dollar company, so I question its commitment to our health and environment if it cannot invest in a few water sprinklers, and keep them maintained and running, so that these dust clouds do not occur.

I feel the statements from Cemex and Tom Abbott imply that tire-burning is the only option to reducing these tire piles. In fact, there is a company right here in Longmont that uses chopped up tires in civil engineering project. Perhaps Mr. Abbott is focused on only one tiny piece of the puzzle. There are plenty of recycling options that do not require tire-burning and the release of more toxic chemicals into the air.

I believe the company's true intent can be found in your article-it has not found using tires as fuel to be economically viable until recently. They have simply found a cheaper fuel source.

I also find it ridiculous to refer to burning tires as a healthier option than coal, as coal mining causes significant, long-term environmental damage. Neither is healthy, especially for people living in close proximity to where the emissions from the tire burning will be concentrated. I do not want to sacrifice my health as part of a "long-term study" of tire-burning.

I think it would be best for our community to slow this process down and take the time to review statistics and look at what other communities have experienced with tire burning in cement kilns. The Watchdog website has links to other communities around the country (see: www.stvrainwatchdogs.org).

Anne George/Longmont/Watchdog Steering Committee

Boulder Weekly
Letters the week of 11/21/2002

Fuel on the fire

Thanks for the update "Fuel Fracas" (News, Nov. 14). I made this fine story available to the participants at the Cemex meeting last night.

Richard Cargill/Lyons

Letters the week of 9/25/03 Boulder Weekly

Right to worry

During a recent trip to the Denver area to appear on the radio program "etown," I happened upon your article about the battle over a Boulder County cement plant ("Trust gone toxic," news, Aug. 28). If an outside perspective is of any use, here is some information that neighbors of this plant may want to consider:

1) Residents are right to be concerned about Cemex's intentions to burn tires in the former Southdown plant. The increasing use of cement plants as incinerators of tires and other potentially hazardous materials is a little-known fact that the cement industry would like to keep as quiet as possible.

2) The industry looks favorably upon such "waste fuels" not for environmental reasons, but because this is an enormous new source of revenue. It's a double win for the company's shareholders: Cement plants not only get paid for "disposing" of tires, garbage medical waste, solvents and other toxic substances-they also save money on the traditional fuel replaced by such waste.

3) When questioned about this practice, the industry tends to claim that it is theoretically possible to burn almost any material safely if the temperature is hot enough. However, that is pure theory, and should not reassure anyone living downwind of a kiln. In actual practice, cement plants are highly prone to "kiln upsets" and other fluctuations in temperature and air flow. This can result in dangerous spikes in emissions over a few hours or days.

4) It is undisputed among credible medical researchers-as opposed to industry-funded junk science-that even short-term exposure to high levels of certain pollutants (including those emitted by cement kilns) can cause substantial harm to lung and heart function, leading to increased hospitalizations and death rates. Young children, the elderly and those with existing health problems have been found to be especially vulnerable.

5) The residents of Boulder County deserve as much support as possible from the general public. As your article made clear, the various elected officials and regulatory agencies who are supposed to protect citizens from such threats often act as advocates for the industry, rather than watchdogs of the public interest. Particularly astonishing was your report that a federal agency certified the plant's tire-burning proposal as safe, but only after discarding test results showing high levels of contamination. Such an approach is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and violates every standard of reliable research.

Sam Pratt/Executive Director, Friends of Hudson

Boulder Weekly
Letters the week of 12/4/03

Inside Cemex

I am writing this letter in response to your article "Dust in the Wind" (cover story, Nov. 20).

I think your research and presentation shows that there is a real health risk from Cemex both to our community and especially to the workers at the plant.

Many residents have worked very hard to raise awareness about health risks, but I was particularly moved by the insider coming forth and risking so much to change the working conditions over there.

I saw some of the video footage and was repulsed and shocked that people have to work there. But after reading about the chemical exposure and the intimidation to which these workers are subjected, I am truly sad.

This is America, isn╠t it?

When you asked John Lohr about the insider going public, he states, "...I am disappointed that they didn╠t point out these issues to us, but that is every individual╠s right in this country." As opposed to other countries?

This statement made me think about what Cemex is doing at their other plants around the world, where people don╠t have the right to speak out. If workers here in this country are harassed, intimidated and subjected to chemical exposure, can you imagine what this company is doing to workers around the world where people cannot speak up, do not have video cameras, access to newspapers and have weak environmental practices?

Cemex will hardly go bankrupt if they spend a little cash on preventive maintenance at their cement plants. They seem to choose not to.

Yes, we are exercising our right to speak out, but I believe Cemex will not do anything substantial regarding preventive maintenance unless we have support from our regulatory agencies and enforcement procedures that work at the county and the state level. It seems like this is now happening.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this issue.

Anne George/St. Vrain Valley Community Watchdogs, Longmont resident


Thank you so much for the Cemex article. You really did your homework and researched this topic from every angle. I am very grateful to you and the Watchdogs, as I am a Cemex neighbor who has been impacted by the Cemex dust clouds for seven years. The kiln dust corroded and ruined the paint job on my Saturn sedan. I can only imagine what it is doing to my lungs and to those who are even more vulnerable than I.

Thank you, Pamela, for your incredible commitment to serving the residents of Boulder County.

Kristin Powell/via Internet


Beware Cemex╠s "Citizen" Advisory Panel! The Weekly points out it will be "facilitated" by the M. Caplan Company, headed by Michael Caplan. A few years ago I attended a city of Boulder meeting "facilitated" by Michael, about future improvements to the 13th Street Bikeway. After each speaker, Michael would intone, "I hear you saying," and then repeat what they said. One young man objected, "But that╠s not what I said!"

Michael explained he was adding his own perspective. I said, "Michael, it╠s bad enough that you╠re wasting our time repeating everyone╠s opinion; now you╠re distorting what they say." After that he stayed unobtrusive.

I╠ve watched lots of real citizen groups run their own meetings successfully without such "professional facilitators" to manipulate people. Don╠t let them!

The Weekly points out Caplan Co. works for Roche, formerly SyntexĎ"once the largest polluter in Boulder County." Syntex was also the third worst toxic pollution emitter in Colorado in 1995. On May 21, 1999, Roche received what was then the largest criminal fine in world historyĎ$500 million for price-fixing vitamins. See the Department of Justice press release at: http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/public/press_releases/1999/2450.htm. This was the largest headline ever on the front page of the Camera╠s business section, but not mentioned at all in the rest of the paperĎanother reason activists need to read business news, which is what "drives" the "world" these days.

Evan Ravitz/Boulder

Boulder Weekly
Letters the week of 3/11/04

Shut them down

I am writing this letter in response to the article "The dust settles," by Pamela White (news, Feb. 26).

After reading the article, I think that Boulder County and the state of Colorado should shut [Cemex] down until they clean up their act. John Lohr, the plant manager, has consistently tried to portray his company as a "good neighbor." That rhetoric is just crap! I╠m sick of hearing it, and I╠d like that whole place to cease operations until they can operate and keep the community safe at the same time.

I cannot believe they╠re actually missing pollution control devices that they said they had. Should this company be allowed to burn tires? Why is Graham Billingsley, the land use director, supporting Cemex in their effort to burn tires? He is named in a lawsuit from the Sierra Club over his actions. Isn╠t he supposed to serve the people of this community?

Perhaps in light of these new findings, he will choose to enforce the law and tell Cemex their special use permit to burn tires has expired. I would like to see the Boulder County Commissioners and the Land Use Department actually stand up to this company even though Cemex has threatened them with a lawsuit.

I also now wonder if John Lohr and the company that analyzed the tire test-burn results manipulated the whole thing. They threw out one of four test results, and Cemex paid for the test. In light of these developments, I cannot trust this company to burn tires and potentially release toxic chemicals into our air.

Anne George/Lyons

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