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Holcim officially opens massive, controversial cement plant in Ste. Genevieve

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – A program at the University of Illinois that helps provide logistical support to community organizations will receive the largest share of air quality improvement funds available from a lawsuit settlement with the concrete company Holcim.

Five conservation groups sued Holcim in 2000 over its proposed $1 billion cement plant, the largest of its kind in the world. Officials were in Ste. Genevieve Friday to officially cut the ribbon on that plant. The company settled the lawsuit in 2004 by agreeing to set aside $3 million for land and water conservation projects and air quality monitoring.

The East St. Louis Research Action Project at the University of Illinois will use $600,000 from the settlement set up a Web site with information about air pollution. The Project also wants to get citizens involved with monitoring air quality.

Everyone involved in the lawsuit would have preferred the plant never get built, said Kathy Andria, the president of American Bottom Conservancy. The Illinois group got involved because pollution from the plant drifts east

"You have to deal as a citizen with what's there, what you can realistically do, and what you can't," she said.

Holcim officials said studies conducted before construction showed there's no need for concern about air pollution. Tests during the plant's ramp-up phase proved that, manager Jeff Ouhl said.

"Since the plant's been up and running, we've actually done and completed all our compliance testing with our permit to prove not only that we're in compliance with all our emission permit limits, but also proved through that process that we're operating well below all those limits," he said.

The company faces a lawsuit filed by Ste. Genevieve County over additional money Holcim was supposed to pay the county to make up for money lost in the tax abatement the county provided to woo the plant.

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