NATRIUM - More than a dozen industrial plants located along the Ohio River could be impacted by new mercury discharge limits set to take effect later this year.
The new limits, imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, could impact chemical, wastewater, aluminum and power plants, among others. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission compiled the following list of businesses that may need variances to continue mercury discharges into the Ohio River because they each have at least one monitoring value for mercury above the EPA's standard:
Mountain State Carbon plant in Follansbee
Koppers Industries Inc. plant in Follansbee
City of Follansbee
Axiall Corp.'s Natrium Plant
City of New Martinsville Street Department
Pleasants Willow Island Power Station at St. Marys
East Liverpool wastewater treatment plant
Wellsville wastewater treatment plant
FirstEnergy Corp. W.H. Sammis plant in Stratton
Valley Converting Co. in Toronto
Toronto wastewater treatment plant
Steubenville wastewater treatment plant
Tiltonsville wastewater treatment plant
FirstEnergy R.E. Burger plant near Shadyside (closed)
Powhatan Point wastewater treatment plant
Ormet Corp. Hannibal Primary Aluminum Reduction Plant
Axiall, formerly the chemical division of PPG Industries, has already secured a variance from ORSANCO that will allow the chemical plant to continue its mercury discharges until 2018.
Jason Heath, ORSANCO's technical programs manager and assistant chief engineer, said the organization drafted the list of possible violators as a screening tool for state agencies and to estimate the number of requests the commission may receive for variances. Heath emphasized those on the list "could potentially need a variance in the future," pending the full implementation and enforcement of the more stringent federal regulations.
Approximately 500 workers at the Natrium Axiall plant manufacture chemicals, primarily chlorine, caustic soda, muriatic acid and calcium hypochlorite. These chemicals have a wide variety of end-uses including water purification, paper and plastics production and as key building blocks for pharmaceuticals.
Nevertheless, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection wants nearly $250,000 in water pollution fines for violations that allegedly took place at the Natrium plant. In 2010, Marshall County Circuit Judge David Hummel ordered Pittsburgh-based PPG to pay the state more than $1.3 million for polluting the Ohio River.
In October, ORSANCO issued a variance for the Natrium plant, provided PPG/Axiall agreed to continue working to reduce mercury discharges into the Ohio River.
ORSANCO also collected water samples from several local facilities and found they are currently in compliance:
City of Weirton
Wells Township wastewater treatment plant
American Electric Power Cardinal Plant near Brilliant
Eastern Ohio Regional Wastewater Authority
Village of Shadyside
AEP's Mitchell Plant.
The EPA notes high exposure to mercury may result in gastrointestinal damage, nervous system damage, kidney damage, skin rashes, mood swings, memory loss, mental disturbances and muscle weakness.