Olin plant is environmentally responsible

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For more than 40 years, Olin's chlorine production plant has been an important part of the Augusta community. Our plant employs 86 area residents, with an annual payroll of $7.5 million, and puts approximately $26.5 million into the local economy each year through the purchase of local goods and services. We can do all of that because we make products that are vital to the nation's health.

That is what we do, but to us, it's just as important to talk about how we operate. We are fully committed to operating the Augusta facility in a way that protects the health and safety of our neighbors in this community. After all, we live here and raise our children here. So, we run this facility in an environmentally responsible way.

That is why we make sure that the use of mercury in our production process is careful and controlled. The mercury that we use is recycled and fully accounted for each year in an audit conducted by independent experts. We meet or do better than the government standards for mercury emissions that have been established to protect human health and the environment. In fact, we discharge only one-third of what the government allows for water.

Overall, we have used enhanced technology and processes to reduce the amount of mercury emissions significantly. We invested more than $48 million during a recent eight-year period to upgrade the Augusta plant, including more than $3 million in state-of-the-art technology to help reduce our emissions.

The steps we have taken are having a positive impact. Since 2005, mercury emissions have dropped more than 85 percent as a result of technological changes. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did a test of the air around our plant. The agency concluded the mercury levels were similar to background levels found elsewhere in the environment.

For the past two years we have been working with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to address an important issue in a manmade canal on our plant's property. The mercury there appears to be the result of our operations many years ago. We have proposed a plan that will isolate and contain mercury found in the sediment. The nearly $3 million remediation project will prevent the material from reaching the surrounding environment, including the Savannah River.

The plan includes blocking off the mouth of the canal with a double steel sheet piled wall near the Savannah River and removing water from the canal. A specially engineered plastic material will be placed on top to provide stability. Olin will then cover the canal and the sediment with an average of 5 feet of clean soil from elsewhere on the plant property, then plant grass to prevent erosion. The mercury that will be covered is tightly bound to the sediment and will not move. The covering will prevent mercury from coming into contact with the environment, wildlife, or people. That remediation project will be completed within about six months after it is approved by the state EPD.

For each of our plants, including the Augusta facility, we routinely invest in technology that helps us meet customer needs and protect the environment. We evaluate the specific circumstances at each plant when determining whether a change in technology may be warranted.

We will continue to meet or do better than government environmental requirements. We will continue to make decisions about technology at the Augusta plant based on the facts, not on a coordinated public relations campaign conducted by a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. We will continue to be good neighbors in this community.

The writer is the Augusta plant manager for Olin Chlor Alkali.

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UncleBill 04/27/08 - 09:43 am
It is good to hear the

It is good to hear the manager make this statement. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to compare the facts with that which the Washington, DC based environmental group is working, and seek to find the disparity, if any. Most of us regular folks don't have easy access to such information, so an article by an unbiased third party in the paper would be most interesting.

iletuknow 04/27/08 - 10:24 am
B.S. This talk is rubbish!

B.S. This talk is rubbish! The plant is a major polluter in the area with the release of over 1 million gallons per day, treated industrial wastewater that can contain up to 1200 pounds per day of solids and 5 pounds of chlorine. Over 800 pounds of mercury is released into the air.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's annual Toxic Release Inventory is any indication, Augusta is one of Georgia's pollution capitals, ranking first or second in toxic emissions for dozens of years in a row.

Ever notice how the Savannah River, which flows pristine and clear from Thurmond Dam upstream, darkens as it passes Augusta and winds toward the coast?

Little wonder of the surrounding area blight surrounding this polluting monster!

FedupwithAUG 04/27/08 - 12:33 pm
Sure cover it up and pretend

Sure cover it up and pretend it is going to go away. Let our childeren's children worry about the cleanup long after Olin shuts down. In the mean time they plan to just dump directly in to the Savannah with a direct pipe. Next they will want to fill in the Savannah River and cap it off from Augusta to Savannah.

jmarlow 05/06/08 - 12:23 pm
Olin plant is environmentally

Olin plant is environmentally responsible?

I hope they do become an environmentally responsible company. They know what should be done and they have the technology to do so.

Olin needs to do two things:

1. They should stop using mercury.

2. They should clean up the canal on their property.

James Marlow

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