Chemical emissions in industry-laden Richmond County decreased slightly from 2010 to 2011, after an increase of more than 3 million pounds the previous year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Toxics Release Inventory.
The annual study, which tracks releases to air, land and water, said the county’s total releases decreased from 13.98 million pounds in 2010 to 13.95 million pounds in 2011, the most recent year for which complete figures are available.
The 2009 countywide total was 10.88 million pounds.
Historically, Augusta’s largest polluters have tended to be the largest industries, with No. 1 emitter PCS Nitrogen Fertilizer reporting the release of 5.7 million pounds in 2011, reflecting an increase over the 2010 total of 4.9 million pounds. The site released 5.5 million pounds in 2009.
DSM Chemicals North America reported 2011 releases totaling 5.3 million pounds, down from the 2010 figure of 5.8 million pounds of chemicals that included nitrates, cyclohexane, ammonia and toluene. The 2010 figure was more than twice the 2009 release of nearly 2.9 million pounds.
Ranking third was another major industry, International Paper, which reported about 2.6 million pounds of ammonia, hydrochloric acid, methanol and other compounds. The 2011 sum was down from the 2010 figure of 2.8 million pounds. The company’s 2009 releases totaled nearly 2.2 million pounds.
All the releases are authorized under state and federal regulatory permits issued to industries that provide jobs and tax revenues. Variations can be caused by changes in manufacturing processes or economic conditions that affect production.
From a national perspective, total toxic air releases in 2011 dropped by 8 percent while total toxic chemical releases increased for the second consecutive year, according to the inventory, which was released on Jan. 16.
The inventory is based on data submitted to federal, state and local governments by facilities in the mining, manufacturing and hazardous waste industries, according to a news release. It also collects information on prevention and management.
“The Toxics Release Inventory provides widespread access to valuable environmental information. It plays a critical role in EPA’s efforts to hold polluters accountable and identify and acknowledge those who take steps to prevent pollution,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a news release.