CEMEX USA and Clean-Water Advocates Reach Pollution-Fighting Agreement

CEMEX agreed to clean up its act in Orange County and elsewhere. Photo courtesy of CEMEX

The CEMEX USA building materials company has essentially agreed to clean up its act in Orange County and elsewhere in Southern California to settle a dispute with regional clean-water advocacy groups.

Orange County Coastkeeper and Los Angeles Waterkeeper filed a complaint in early 2017 that claimed stormwater from CEMEX facilities in Irvine, Compton and Fontana raised pH and metal levels in nearby waterways in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Those claims were originally refuted by CEMEX USA, which is the Houston-based subsidiary of San Pedro, Mexico-based CEMEX S.A.B. de C.V., which along with its affiliates make and distribute cement, ready-made concrete and aggregates in more than 50 countries.

But on Monday, CEMEX USA, Orange County Coastkeeper, its Inland Empire Waterkeeper chapter and Los Angeles Waterkeeper jointly announced that they have agreed on a plan to enhance stormwater management from the three Southern California ready-mix plants.

Under terms of the pact, CEMEX will upgrade best management practices for storm water at the plants, enhance water-testing protocols beyond current testing requirements and contribute $55,000 to identify and fund future environmental-mitigation projects through Pacific Marine Mammal Center of Laguna Beach, the Riverside-based Rivers and Lands Conservancy and From Lot to Spot in Los Angeles.

“CEMEX strives to be a good neighbor in the communities in which we live and operate,” said Eric Wittmann, CEMEX USA’s regional president-West Region, “and this agreement continues that commitment in Southern California.”

Added Colin Kelly, Coastkeeper’s senior staff attorney, “We’re proud of CEMEX for its commitment to improving the waters that our families and wildlife depend on. By capturing and reusing its stormwater, CEMEX will protect our swimmable waters while lowering its water use in the process.”

Coastkeeper’s legal team counts CEMEX among four large ready-mix concrete companies that have been convinced to update their practices and infrastructure in the past two years. CEMEX is expected to complete its facility upgrades by Oct. 15.

CEMEX has developed a number of educational and social responsibility initiatives and was bestowed the 2007 Corporate Citizen of the Americas Award by the Organization of American States for a program that built housing for low-income families in Mexico.

However, CEMEX has also in its past been accused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of violating clean-air regulations in Victorville, Santa Barbara and Colorado. The Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District also suspected CEMEX operations contributed to toxic dust in Marina, California.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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