Chlorine makers' mercury output criticized
By Tom Henry
Published January 27th, 2005
Chlorine manufacturers that still use a 19th-century technology
have been largely overlooked in the national debate over
whether the Bush administration has become aggressive
enough in combating mercury emissions, an international
group said yesterday.
Oceana, a group formed three years ago to track worldwide
efforts to protect the seas, said chlorine plants that
don't use a more modern mercury-free technology spew twice
the mercury of some coal-fired power plants and should
share some blame for fish consumption advisories in the
Great Lakes as well as advisories against eating too much
tuna from oceans.
There are far more power plants, though. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency estimates that power plants are responsible
for about two-thirds of America's airborne mercury, a
dangerous toxin that can cause problems with brain and
nervous-system development among children.
While Oceana agrees the primary focus should be on power
plants, it said chlorine makers should not be given a
free pass if they have not converted to a mercury-free
Ninety percent of the chlorine made in the United States
is manufactured with the cleaner process. The other 10
percent is made by nine manufacturers that haven't embraced
it, including Ashta Chemicals Inc. of Ashtabula, Ohio,
the group said. Ashta is Ohio's single-largest source
of mercury emissions and the nation's fifth-largest mercury
emitter. Ohio, which has more coal-fired power plants
than most states, is second only to Texas in mercury emissions,
U.S. EPA records show.
An Ashta spokesman was not available yesterday. But Zoe
Lipman of the National Wildlife Federation, a group often
critical of state and federal regulators, praised the
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for negotiating improvements
at Ashta. In September, the agency announced a $1.54 million
settlement that will prevent the release of 1,320 pounds
of mercury annually from Ashta.
Although not mercury-free technology, the improvements
will be "an important step forward," Ms. Lipman
Also yesterday, several groups claimed 12 of Ohio's 21
largest power plants increased annual emissions of sulfur
dioxide between 1995 and 2004 and eight of them increased
their annual emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide
during that period.
But Jack Shaner, an Ohio Environmental Council spokesman,
noted that FirstEnergy Corp.'s coal-fired Bay Shore power
plant in Oregon posted reductions.
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