“Nitrogen oxide is a contributor to ozone pollution, which can affect the health of young children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems,” said Diamond. “This installation will allow for early reductions in this pollutant and test a new system to ensure that it will meet future limits.”

The cement manufacturing facility near Reading voluntarily submitted the plan a year before new state nitrogen oxide regulations for cement manufacturing plants may go into effect.

The project, once fully implemented, can result in nitrogen oxide emission reductions of close to 700 tons per year from the two kilns. It will also reduce the amount of fine particulate emissions released into the atmosphere.

Lehigh Cement submitted the application to DEP on November 18, 2008. Because of the project’s environmental benefits, the department expedited its review in order to meet Lehigh’s tight construction schedule. DEP found the application to be technically sound.

Some of the work can only be done during Lehigh’s kiln outage, already in progress. The company said that if approval was not given by Monday, it would be forced to postpone the project until 2010.

Ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, forms during warm weather when pollution from vehicles, industry, households and power plants “bakes” in the hot sun, making it hard for some people to breathe.