Union Bridge is home to the fifth largest Portland cement plant in the country, which reportedly spewed 376 pounds of mercury into the air in 2007, yet the local paper fails to find issues regarding the large plant and its emission newsworthy. In 2006, Lehigh reported 35 tons of mercury emissions, so the much higher 2007 figure points to a problem with the accuracy of the emissions reporting process, which would be a story in its own right. Lehigh has stated that the higher 2007 figure is the result of more accurate reporting, not a ten-fold increase in its mercury emissions from the year before. The local paper could serve the local community well by reporting about the impact all this mercury could be having on the area residents, but they remain silent.
NEWCAP, a local non-profit organization concerned with the impact of the local quarry industry, has even asked the local paper about their apparent lack of interest in the cement plant and its impact on the area, but the only response from the paper was to thank the sender for the information. Silence reigns.
As the lack of coverage from the local community press becomes a story in its own right, one has to wonder why the paper seems to regard human interest articles from other parts of the country as more newsworthy than happenings in their own backyard. It's not as if they don't know the plant is there - at 465 feet high, the cement tower dominates the landscape in Union Bridge and can be seen for miles around. And it's not as if an article discussing the negative impact of the plant is likely to cause Lehigh to pack their packs and leave in a huff - the company has stated that they have a long term commitment to the area and plan to use stone from the New Windsor quarry for many decades to come.
New regulations proposed by the EPA will require cement plants to reduce their mercury by 80 persent by 2013, so no doubt there are lots of stories to come on this matter that the local paper won't see fit to print.