An annual report by NAFTA’s environmental agency says electric power plants are the worst air polluters in North America. It also says much of the pollution comes from states and provinces in the region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein has details:
An annual report by NAFTA’s environmental agency says electric power plants are the
worst air polluters in North America. It also says much of the pollution comes from
Great Lakes states and provinces. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David
Sommerstein has details:
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation studied industrial chemical releases in
North America in 2001, the latest data available. After Texas… Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Indiana, and the province of Ontario led in toxic emissions.
The study also found air pollution was down overall. But it still accounted for two-thirds
of all chemicals released by industry. Bill Kennedy is the commission’s Executive
‘There’s still a lot of chemicals that are going into the air and we think that the
governments and industry need to do a better job.”
Kennedy says the electric industry has the most work to do. Mostly coal-fired power
plants produced almost half of all the air pollution in 2001, including 64% of all mercury
emissions. The report calls for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to use more
renewable energies to reduce reliance on polluting power plants.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Sommerstein.
A new environmental study has found toxic emissions increased in Canada during the late 1990’s, while pollution in the United States decreased over that same period. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, critics say the findings reflect the differences in the governments’ commitment to cleaning up the environment:
A new environmental study has found that toxic emissions increased in Canada during the late 1990’s while pollution in the United States decreased over that same period. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, critics say the findings reflect the differences in the governments’ commitment to cleaning up the environment:
Between 1995 and 1999, the amount of toxic waste released into the environment by American manufacturers decreased by about seven
percent. However, in Canada, toxic releases increased by six percent. That’s according to a new study conducted by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. It was established under the North American Free
Trade Agreement. The study compares industrial pollution in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, where the system is voluntary. Ken Olgivie is the executive director of Pollution Probe, an environmental group based in Toronto. He says the findings reflect the tightening of environmental regulations during the Clinton years. And the simultaneous
budget-cutting that was going on in Canada.
“When the U.S. is going down and we’re going up, I think that raises a serious question on Canadian policy and Americans should be aware of that because I’m sure you’re told all the time by our politicians how we do such wonderful things and we’re ahead of you, but I don’t think that’s true.”
For instance, the Ontario progressive conservatives cut their
environmental budget in half in 1995. Such cuts are significant because the regulation of air and water pollution in Canada lies with the provinces, rather than the federal government. That leads to different laws all across the country. An independent inquiry blamed the Ontario cutbacks for the deadly E. coli outbreak that occurred in the town of Walkerton in 2000.
The NAFTA report found Ontario had the largest increase in pollution of any state or province – at 19 percent. It remains the fourth largest polluter in North America and is the biggest recipient of American toxic waste. But it’s not the only place in the Great Lakes highlighted in the report. The study’s director, Erica Phipps says the region is responsible for a significant amount of North America’s pollution.
“Five Great Lakes jurisdictions, Ohio, Ontario, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, represent one quarter of the facilities and one quarter of the total releases that we’re looking at in this report…when we’re looking at the toxic releases and transfers coming from that region, it is certainly of concern.”
Phipps says that close to half of the landfill disposals of toxic waste occur in this region. Landfills in Ontario, Michigan and Ohio are the
biggest recipients. But at least one government is considering a change. Ontario’s new premier, Ernie Eves, is promising to pour new funding into the province’s environment ministry and tighten its enforcement.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
American Electric Power is working to stop blue clouds of sulfuric acid from descending on towns near the Ohio River. Ironically, the clouds are a by-product of a 200-million dollar system installed in May to help curb smog-producing emissions from the General James M. Gavin Power Plant. The search for a solution is being watched by other power plants in the U.S. that have to comply with stricter anti-smog regulations put in place by the federal government.
Blue clouds of sulfuric acid have descended upon towns in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia more than a dozen times since May. The clouds are from smoke stacks at American Electric Power’s General James M. Gavin plant in rural Cheshire, Ohio. It’s one of the largest coal-burning power plants in North America. The company blames a new 200 million dollar pollution control system for releasing more toxic emissions. If they’re right, other Midwestern power companies may face similar troubles when trying to comply with federal clean air laws. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie Walston reports:
Blue clouds of sulfuric acid have descended upon towns in south-eastern Ohio and West Virginia more than a dozen times since may. The clouds are from smoke stacks at American Electric Powers General John M. Gavin plant in rural Cheshire, Ohio. It’s one of the largest coal-burning power plants in North America. The company blames a new 200-million dollar pollution control system for releasing more toxic emissions. If they’re right, other midwestern power companies may face similar troubles when trying to comply with federal clean air laws. The great lakes radio consortium’s Natalie Walston reports.
The small, rundown airport in Mt. Pleasant sits on a flat part of the hills of West Virginia.
It’s surrounded by thick trees. Its rural enough here that it’s common to see wild turkeys dashing across the runways. One summer afternoon airport manager Ben Roush looked out his window. But instead of seeing a plane land … he saw thick smoke clinging to the tops of the trees.
“It looked like, uh, exhaust out of a car or something like that. It wasn’t black smoke it was blue. Very, very visible.”
After the smoke appeared, his phone began to ring.
“The fire department down here called up here and wanted to know if we had a fire up here because it was all in these … it settled to the ground. And, it was in those trees.”
The clouds contain high concentrations of sulfuric acid. That’s not normal … even this close to a power plant that burns coal with a high sulfur content. For years, most coal-burning power plants have had pollution control devices called “scrubbers” to deal with that sulfur. The scrubbers do just what the name implies – they scrub the air clean of sulfur dioxide as well as some other pollutants. But, they don’t do a good job in removing nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is blamed in part for causing acid rain and smog.
Paul Chodak is manager of American Electric Power’s Optimization Group. He says AEP installed a selective catalytic reduction system … or SCR … in an effort to remove nitrous oxide. Chodak says the SCR system is a relatively new technology. And, so far, it and the scrubber aren’t working well together. That’s because they are combining to make sulfuric acid, but in a different form. And that form then gets released into the air.
“The SO3 … or sulfuric acid is in very fine droplets … sub-micron size droplets. Very, very tiny. And they’re so small that they travel through the scrubber and they’re not removed. So, the scrubber works very well on the gas in removing SO2. However, it’s not very effective in removing SO3.”
Chodak says this is all because of an effort to reduce emissions that cause acid rain and smog in eastern seaboard states. But… as AEP scrambles to stop polluting the air hundreds of miles away … people who live beneath the smoke stacks claim their health is being sacrificed. They say that in the summer, when the sulfuric acid clouds move in it’s difficult to breathe.
(natural sound of NASCAR race and drunk people carrying on)
Gallipolis is a small city five miles south of the power plant. Today there’s a small crowd of people gathered at Sunny’s bar and grille. People here will only give their first names to an out of town reporter. A man named Steve is drinking a beer at a table with his sister. He says fallout from the plant makes the paint peel off cars.
“All that acid and stuff goes on these cars. They gotta repaint the cars … so you know it’s tearin’ us up. Our bodies. And, like I say, we worry about our kids and grandkids more. We’re old enough that it’s not gonna bother us no more.”
His sister Tammy drags slowly on a cigarette as Steve talks.
When he finishes, she jumps in to say that since the blue clouds started showing up, everyone in town has become sick.
“I have health problems. I cough all the time. Allergies all the time. Allergies to something’. Runny nose. Constantly. You know, I think everyone in town has health problems that live around here.”
But AEP claims the air is cleaner than it was before the SCR system was installed. Paul Chodak says the air turned blue this summer because the sulfuric acid reacted with sunlight on hot, humid days. He says people become scared because they could actually see what they were breathing.
“The hard thing for people to understand is that what is coming out of the stack is significantly cleaner than what was coming out before. This is an improvement from a pollution control perspective. However, it has created this local phenomena that is a problem. And, AEP is moving to address that and we will solve it.”
Sulfuric acid measurements taken by the company and examined by Ohio and U.S. EPA researchers meanwhile don’t show a major sulfuric acid problem. But there are no state standards in place in Ohio for levels of gaseous sulfuric acid in the air.
Kay Gilmer of the Ohio EPA says emissions from AEP have exceeded sulfuric acid standards set by other states. However, she says people near the plant stacks aren’t in immediate danger. But she hesitates to say the air is perfectly safe to breathe.
“We didn’t have anything that would um … that we would … that we looked at that was exceptionally high. But, that was, I don’t want to say that to say we’re not concerned with the problem.”
Meanwhile, people near the plant say they’re tired of having their health jeopardized so people far away from them can breathe easier. They are working with state environmental groups to possibly fight the power plant in court.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Natalie Walston.