In a 5-0 vote Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors authorized staff to report back about a nearly year-old violation issued to Cupertino’s Lehigh Southwest Cement Company for discharging pollution into Permanente Creek.
Supervisor Joe Simitian, whose district encompasses the quarry, said he called for the update to “resolve this particular issue once and for all.”
“Look, it’s been nine months since the violation, and we still don’t have a resolution,” he said. “Staff argues one side and Lehigh argues another. We still haven’t gotten a clear resolution, and we need to.”
The county slapped the cement plant with a violation notice in June last year for failing to control sedimentation runoff and failing to comply with permit conditions.
At a December Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee, Simitian declared that he would bring the matter back to the board of supes if it wasn’t resolved by February. Clearly, that didn’t happen.
Instead, the county planners are preparing a report for the board in the coming weeks about what the company is doing to protect nearby waterways.
“My primary concern is that the violation is abated, and we can be sure the facility is operating lawfully,” Simitian said.
When Lehigh build its quarry in the Cupertino hills in 1903, the area was far removed from where anyone lived. But the city grew up around it and the plant not lies near residential neighborhoods, where it creates lots of noise and pollution.
When Simitian returned to the county board after a stint in the state Senate, he pushed for stronger oversight of the cement plant by ramping up on-site inspections. The supervisor also hosts a yearly meeting for residents to stay informed about the operation and hear updates about it from relevant regulatory agencies.
In a statement provided by a company spokesman, a Lehigh official said she wants to get all this behind them as much as the county does. “We share Supervisor Simitian’s desire to resolve this issue,” Lehigh Environmental Director Erika Guerra said. “Lehigh has worked diligently to protect the creek by implementing all mitigation actions prior to the commencement of the current rainy ’19-’20 season. Over the past eight months, Lehigh has provided to county staff all the necessary records to resolve this matter. With the supervisors’ actions, we are encouraged that we will be recognized for these efforts and be able to officially bring this matter to a close.”