Worcester Area Companies Produced 3 Million Pounds of Toxic Waste in 2011
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Unlike years past, the companies sent most of their hazardous waste in 2011 to recyclers or to energy plants. But they still sent about 130,000 pounds of chemicals to public sewage treatment facilities, most by sending it down the drain. Eighty-two companies reported their 2011 chemical use to the EPA.
Westborough Saw Most Chemicals In Public Treatment System
The company that sent the most into a public treatment system was GE Osmonics, which specializes in wastewater systems. GE Osmonics put 66,000 pounds of a toxic solvent, N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone, through Westborough’s public wastewater treatment. The chemical is suspected of being harmful to a developing fetus, according to the World Health Organization. GE Healthcare Bio Sciences put 20,000 pounds of the same solvent into Westborough’s water treatment system.
Select Engineering, in Fitchburg, a company that manufactures electrode sensors, sent 23,000 pounds of nitrate compounds into the public treatment system. Untreated nitrates are considered a major environmental pollutant. Nitrates are a form of nitrogen, and especially when combined with phosphorus, can cause massive overgrowth of aquatic plants, according to the EPA.
Worcester area manufacturers sent 400 pounds of heavy metal compounds, much of it at least partially treated, to public treatment facilities. Most of this was by Riverdale Mills, a Northbridge maker of wire mesh, which put 346 pounds of zinc compounds through the public water treatment system. Karl Storz Endovision, which makes medical instruments in Charlton, put 39 pounds of waste lead compounds into the public treatment system.
Recycling on the Rise
Companies try to avoid sending hazardous wastes to a toxic waste dump, which is expensive, said Dwight Peavey, senior scientist at EPA New England.
"More is being recycled, especially in these challenging economic times. The cost of transporting waste is going up and you want to get the waste into as small a quantity as possible," Peavey said.
Worcester area companies sent 1.6 million pounds of chemicals to recyclers, and 525,000 pounds to energy recovery plants.
They trucked about 638,000 pounds of chemicals to private facilities to be treated and made less toxic. About 100,000 pounds of chemicals were released into Worcester County air.
The treatment facilities might neutralize a harsh acid, or combine a chemical with another to make it inert. Sometimes less toxic liquids are treated so that they can go into a landfill, Peavey said.
Hazardous Dumps Unavoidable
Still, for some companies, trucking waste to a hazardous dump was unavoidable. About 120,000 pounds of waste from Worcester County manufacturers were shipped to hazardous waste dumps, in Canada, Ohio and elsewhere, Peavey said.
Wyman-Gordon, in North Grafton, sent the most waste to a hazardous facility, 19,000 pounds of nickel compound. No one at the company was available to comment.
Supercon, a semiconductor company in Shrewsbury, specializes in sensors for medical equipment, like the foot pedals used by dentists to lower or raise a chair. The company had to truck 23,000 pounds of waste copper compounds to hazardous waste dumps. Supercon was able to recycle 94,000 pounds of other chemicals.
"We are always looking for ways to increase our efficiency. Waste disposal is a large cost," Terry Wong, Supercon president said.
Incom, a fiber optics company in Charlton, was able to recycle 43,000 pounds of lead compounds, and to send 14,000 pounds more to hazardous waste facilities.
"We do as much as we can to recycle," Michael LeBlanc, of Incom said.
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