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Factory Where Alleged Gunman Worked Has Long History of Safety Violations

 
The state wants to ban the company from supplying concrete to public works projects

The Cupertino quarry and concrete plant where employee Shareef Allman allegedly killed three people Wednesday has a long history of environmental and safety violations and could soon be prohibited from selling to local and state government agencies.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has cited the Lehigh Southwest Cement's Permanente Plant, the leading supplier of concrete in the Bay Area, for at least 24 pollution violations over the past seven years.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited the company for alleged Clean Air Act violations. In June, inspectors for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued 21 citations for dangerous workplace conditions after visiting the plant.

And in July, the California Office of Mine Reclamation warned the company that it would be barred from selling to local or state agencies because it had failed to address violations dating back five years.

In a July 20 letter to a company representative, Mine Reclamation Office Compliance Manager Kenneth Trott said mining operations had continued in prohibited areas, despite numerous warnings, and that Lehigh had failed to stabilize slopes of a quarry pit.

“[T]he company should have come into compliance by December 2007,” Trott wrote in the letter.

In response, the company, the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building Trades Council and other parties filed a lawsuit and secured an injunction, pending a trial, that has allowed the company to continue selling to government agencies.

“The threatened action would violate state law, which permits mining operations a reasonable amount of time to correct alleged violations,” attorneys for the company wrote in court filings. “The facility has operated in the present manner for decades.”

A trial is expected to begin later this year.

Neil Struthers, the CEO of the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building Trades Council, said such a ban would force contractors to find alternative suppliers, delaying public works projects and driving up construction costs.

“There is a significant list of jobs that would be impacted,” Struthers said in an interview several weeks ago.

The company has supplied materials for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, the Doyle Drive retrofit project and the Transbay Transit Terminal, among other public works projects.

Lehigh officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in an August statement the company said the ban “would be financially damaging for contractors, and threaten thousands of industry workers that rely directly or indirectly on the quarry’s operation.”

Limestone mining at the Cupertino facility dates back to the late 19th century. In 1939, industrialist Henry Kaiser built the concrete factory next to the quarry to supply materials for the construction of the Shasta Dam. It has operated continuously since then.

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