Nearly 100k Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Released Into Worcester County Air
Monday, January 28, 2013
The chemicals were released legally out smokestacks and as leaks during the manufacturing process. The chemicals include toluene, ammonia, and heavy metal compounds of lead, chromium and nickel.
The federal EPA requires companies and facilities to keep track of any of 650 toxic chemicals they create or use, and to report that handling each year to the EPA as Toxic Release Inventory data.
According to the data, in 2011, companies in Worcester County released 72,492 pounds of toxic chemicals through smokestacks and 25,498 pounds through leaks during manufacturing. Throughout Massachusetts in 2011, about 1.7 million pounds of hazardous chemicals were released into the air.
Flexcon, of Spencer, emitted 15,000 pounds of chemicals into the air, the most compared to any other company in Worcester County. The company, which makes adhesives and films, released about 12,000 pounds of the chemical toluene, plus 500 pounds of vinyl acetate, 670 pounds of xylene and 100 pounds of n-hexane. Toluene is known to be harmful to the cardiovascular and nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Flexcon did not care to comment.
“Massachusetts has a very good and effective and active environmental program," EPA spokesperson David Deegan said.
“This work is to try and ensure that people and communities, that we are doing what we can to protect people from harmful exposures," he said.
“The American Lung Association perspective is that these emissions are harmful," said Katie King, director of public policy for American Lung Association of the Northeast.
The allowable limits do not take into consideration our total exposure to the chemicals, she said. The allowable levels need to be updated regularly to keep up with what researchers learn about the health effects of chemicals.
“The American Lung Association’s priority is to call on the EPA to keep updating the limits," she said.
The law that governs air pollution is the Clean Air Act, and the EPA enforces it. The EPA may come under attack by budget cutters in the upcoming fiscal cliff and federal budget debates, King said.
“We are calling on the administration and congressional leaders to fully fund the EPA," she said.
Saint-Gobain Abrasives, in Worcester, released 11,000 pounds of chemicals through its smokestacks. About 4,000 additional pounds were leaked into the air during manufacturing, according to the EPA. The chemicals included about 9,200 pounds of ammonia and 4,800 pounds of phenols.
“We have reported release of toxic chemicals [that are] below the legal limit," Lauren Petit, spokesperson for Saint-Gobain, said in an email.
Saint-Gobain Containers, a global company with a plant in Milford, paid a $2.25 million fine to the EPA in 2010, for emitting illegal amounts of chemicals into the air.
Eddington Thread, in Worcester, sent about 13,000 pounds of methanol into the air in 2011. Exposure to methanol, an alcohol, can cause headaches, dizziness and blurred vision, according to the EPA.
Archer Rubber legally released about 5,000 pounds of chemicals into the air. The Milford company produces rubber-coated fabrics, often for the military. In 2007 the EPA fined the company $26,500 for illegally releases of toluene in 2005 and 2006, as a result of a faulty incinerator.
Southbridge’s Createk-Stone released 8,600 pounds of styrene into the air in 2011. Styrene is harmful to the liver and the nervous system, and is assumed to be a carcinogen, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“We need to curb pollution, including toxics going into the air," said George Bachrach, executive director of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
“There is no truly acceptable amount," he said.
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