Grand Concern for Grand Canyon

Environmentalists and scientists say a proposed cement plant may add a milky haze to the Grand Canyon's priceless views

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A hiker’s first trip to the Grand Canyon is always awe-inspiring. The postcard views are world class. Red-stained buttes cut up the long skyline. Sinuous canyons, tattooed by wind and water, disappear into timeless depths.

Those views could all change by 2013 if a proposed cement plant in Seligman, AZ is approved, the Arizona Republic reported earlier this month. The proposed plant would be built less than 50 miles from the Grand Canyon and opponents say the region’s prevailing winds would likely blow a haze of toxic pollutants over the national park.

“There is just no reason to locate this type of highly polluting industry so close to the Grand Canyon,” Stacey Hamburg of the Sierra Club told the Arizona Republic.

“This thing is 40 miles south of the Grand Canyon. And the prevailing winds are out of the southwest. So whatever it puts out is going to end up at the Grand Canyon,” Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust told

“Since the winds are not all that strong, and precipitation is not frequent, the haze from smokestack industries hangs in the air over the canyon and the entire Colorado Plateau north of Flagstaff,” Arizona State Climatologist Nancy Selover told

That means the pollutants will float over the South Rim of the canyon, where most of the park’s 4.4 million visitors flock every year.

Some worry poorer air quality may also cause extra respiratory problems for hikers tackling the lung-busting 5,000-foot climb from the canyon floor to the rim.

According to the article, the cement plant will heat limestone at temperatures up to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, producing various pollutants like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulates. Environmentalists also say Cemex, the company building the plant, has a history with the Environmental Protection Agency, including a recent $2 million settlement for smog-causing pollution in California.