Mercury cleanup bill gets new life

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Two years ago, a little known Illinois senator introduced legislation to compel chlorine factories using mercury cell technology to convert to cleaner processes -- or shut down by 2012.

The bill, which would have affected Olin Corp.'s Augusta plant and three others in the U.S., was screened by a Republican administration favorable to big business -- and never passed.

In January, however, the sponsor of that 2006 bill -- Barack Obama -- becomes president, and environmental groups hope to successfully resurrect the mercury issue.

"It can be brought up again very easily, and we believe it will be," said Jackie Savitz, senior campaign director at the environmental group Oceana, which has lobbied for years to bring an end to the use of toxic mercury in the chlorine industry.

More than 95 percent of U.S. chlorine plants have converted to mercury-free technology, she said. The remaining plants using mercury include Olin's Augusta plant and three other sites in Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio.

Such plants make chlorine by pumping saltwater through a "cell" of mercury to create a chemical reaction. The process causes mercury to be released into the environment, where it can accumulate in fish and be passed along to humans.

Olin has invested in technology to reduce mercury emissions, and reported releasing 137.85 pounds in 2007, down almost 85 percent from the 834.5 pounds the plant released in 2005.

Ms. Savitz said supporters of the initial legislation are optimistic.

"The politics really got in the way before, but with the new reality of Sen. Obama in the White House, I think we have a very good chance of getting that bill through," she said.

Olin officials have said conversion to modern technology -- costing as much as $90 million -- is neither necessary nor financially feasible.

David Blair, Olin's Augusta plant manager, said the site remains in compliance with state and federal permits and has reduced mercury emissions by investing in better technology.

"Changing the existing technology at our facility would require tearing down and rebuilding the entire plant, potentially affecting hundreds of people in the region," he said, adding that converting to mercury-free technology is "simply not warranted."

He would not say what would happen if Congress does pass a law.

"We decline to speculate on legislation that may be proposed, including how such proposed legislation may impact our operations," Mr. Blair said.

Mercury is a persistent and potent neurotoxin that damages neurological development in children and cardiac health in adults, according to environmental groups, who contend companies can save money on electricity, waste disposal and environmental compliance by switching to modern technology.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 12/22/08 - 02:29 am
0
0
Get rid of these major

Get rid of these major polluters! (Olin) Nobody wants them and nobody needs them! These type of plants prevent decent employers from moving into the area due to the pollution and low living standards they create.

wcr250
71
Points
wcr250 12/22/08 - 03:49 am
0
0
As long as the rivers and

As long as the rivers and streams and air is not effected what is the problem
I am told by the state of ga., that the river is clean and the water is good to drink

rainh2o
0
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rainh2o 12/22/08 - 04:49 am
0
0
Let me know when they tear

Let me know when they tear down that Olin plant. I'm lookin' for a good location wher i kin sell boiled peenuts and banty chickins.

Ole School
1
Points
Ole School 12/22/08 - 05:01 am
0
0
wcr250 , I have fished down

wcr250 , I have fished down river , and take it from me , there is something coming out of those plants that STAINS, and stinks, and to smell like that it has to be doing something to the fish, also go to DNR website and then tell you do not eat too much of the fish from the Savannah for that reason ! I PRAY Obama does something that others has not ...... hold big business accountable !

Tujeez1
0
Points
Tujeez1 12/22/08 - 06:07 am
0
0
You all need to become better

You all need to become better informed on the open pollution that takes place right under your noses. These companies have to get permits through EPD Georgia to operate. They are traceable, as are their pollutants, through these permits. Why do you think MCG is HERE and not in Atlanta? Many pollutants cause birth defects and high cancer rates in the resident population.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 12/22/08 - 08:30 am
0
0
Mercury gets into the air and

Mercury gets into the air and water from the flourescent bulbs you throw away. It comes from the coal burned to make your electricity. The industries that Augustan's should be proud to have here, are dependent on the main products which are produced at Olin. Chlorine, caustic soda, bleach, hydrogen, and several other products that are absolutely necessary for our industrial gems. The people at Olin are professionals and manage their plant accordingly. Politics over science, fear over reason, speculation over information. No wonder things cost what they do.

soldout
1283
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soldout 12/22/08 - 08:47 am
0
0
Your main source of mercury

Your main source of mercury concern may need to be in your mouth from your metal fillings. To learn more read "Whole Body Dentistry" by Mark Breiner, DDS. In fact the only place mercury isn't considered a hazard by your dentist is inside your mouth.

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/22/08 - 09:22 am
0
0
Mercury, one of the causes of

Mercury, one of the causes of autism! Would you want your child to have mercury in their drinking water?

JohnnyYuma
0
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JohnnyYuma 12/22/08 - 09:28 am
0
0
There are warning signs

There are warning signs posted at Clarks Hill and the River telling people about the mercury. They have been there for years, so what part about the state saying everything is OK don't you get.

soldout
1283
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soldout 12/22/08 - 09:41 am
0
0
In the Amish population the

In the Amish population the autism rate is 1 in 10,000 or more vs 1 in 150 for the normal population. The Amish vaccinate much less so we need to spend time studying healthy children instead of sick ones to find all the answers. The mecury needs to come out of all vaccinations and the number needs to be reduced and spread out. Mecury has more than one name just like the msg in food. You can muscle test food and you can muscle test drugs to see if they are dangerous. Don't be concerned about what the label says or someone tells you but learn to muscle test and your body will tell you whether something is good or bad in seconds. Muscle test everything you or your children consume and watch yours and their health improve.

aaa
2
Points
aaa 12/22/08 - 10:15 am
0
0
Now, let's get this straight.

Now, let's get this straight. The same group of whacko radicals that want us to switch over to using mercury-laden flourescent light bulbs want the Augusta Olin company to shut down or rebuild the entire facility, either way affecting the jobs and lives of hundreds of people. Jackie Savitz is playing the old political game to it's fullest. There is more danger to the local environment from the used flourescent light bulbs discarded by one Wal-Mart store than from the well-contained mercury cells at Olin. Jackie Savitz and her whacko tree hugger friends know that they have a poitical ally coming to the White House in January. And guess what - they will probably get their out-of-the-mainstream agenda rubber stamped for one reason: Georgia voted for McCain and Chambliss. Pure politics, that's all. And people will lose their jobs! I suggest that everyone who loses their job line up for handouts from Jackie Savitz and her friends. Just don't expect to get anything. That's how the radical left works. You think like them or you get nothing. They have no tolerance for those who disagree with their radical political agenda.

JohnnyYuma
0
Points
JohnnyYuma 12/22/08 - 01:54 pm
0
0
So its pure politics to stop

So its pure politics to stop big business from poisoning the water supply. Lets just stop treating the sewage and dump it straight into the river like the good old days.

tbonitatibus
4
Points
tbonitatibus 12/22/08 - 03:42 pm
0
0
The most alarming thing about

The most alarming thing about the Olin story is the fact that they will go out of business if they do not switch processes. 90% of the chlorine produced in the United States in produced without using mercury, and their product is cheaper to produce and loads safer. Only 4 of these plants remain in the United States, using antiquated technologies, and putting our lives at risk unnecessarily.
Olin is not able to carefully control its mercury emissions, as much of it is lost in a way that can not be measured accurately. They estimate their loss per year to be 750lbs, but chances are its much higher.
So, we are stuck with an industry that is destined to go out of business soon, is responsible for huge amounts of mercury (#2 source in Georgia) into our environment, and is about to have to start a huge clean up process on their already badly contaminated channel that dumps to the River.
It should alarm all that the federal government is considering designating Olin's processes too dangerous to continue. It is time for Olin to announce they are switching NOW. They need to do the right thing for our people and for our economy and switch in 2009.

gnx
7
Points
gnx 12/22/08 - 04:07 pm
0
0
Pollution does need to be

Pollution does need to be controlled, yet Congress is still passing stupid laws that will continue to add mercury to our landfills and groundwater because ordinary folks don't have a clue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-LOtKIIKcg

aaa
2
Points
aaa 12/22/08 - 04:08 pm
0
0
Liberal politics is also Big

Liberal politics is also Big Business, and a religion unto itself. We are in more danger from the high levels of mercury in the flourescent light bulbs they want us to use than we are from the well controlled and well monitored mercury cells at Olin. But that's okay - that form of mercury poisoning is approved by the leftist whacko "environmentalists". Yea, Johnny, it is pure poilitics.

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 12/22/08 - 04:34 pm
0
0
You're comparing light bulbs

You're comparing light bulbs to a major documented polluter? The latest technology bulbs contain no mercury. What's wrong? Afraid of losing that baseline job and daily trip to the surrounding ghetto if you don't "tow the line".

aaa
2
Points
aaa 12/22/08 - 04:36 pm
0
0
Re-read my posts. You're not

Re-read my posts. You're not quite getting it.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 12/22/08 - 07:08 pm
0
0
Flourescent light bulbs

Flourescent light bulbs contain a bead of mercury that by itself is small. However, look at the lights in one store or office building. Each one of those bulbs will end up broken and the mercury evaporated into the air. Every one of them. And each one is replaced with another flourescent bulb. In just the US alone, we throw away 670 million lamps per year. Quick, someone call the EPA. Why make Olin the whipping boy when another industry gets a free ride?

aaa
2
Points
aaa 12/22/08 - 09:12 pm
0
0
DuhJudge: I like your ruling.

DuhJudge: I like your ruling.

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 12/22/08 - 10:00 pm
0
0
Olin Chemical releases tons

Olin Chemical releases tons and tons of pollutants all over the country. Pollutants go into the air,ground, and waterways. They are one of the top contributors paying by lawsuits into the EPA superfund.
I get over 5 million hits doing a search of Olin Chemical pollution.
How on earth can anyone stand up for this evil polluter?

aaa
2
Points
aaa 12/22/08 - 11:07 pm
0
0
Iletuknow: You're still not

Iletuknow: You're still not getting it. No one is "standing up" - as you twisted it - for an "evil polluter". The point is that this bill is pure politics. Liberals like to claim a Crusade against "Big Business" in the name of their global warming and environmental gods. They push the mistaken concept that (mercury-laden) flourescent light bulbs will help stop "man-made" global warming and return the earth to it's pristine 1960's-era LSD induced paradise. They choose to ignore the fact that these bulbs will cause much more pollution and damage than Olin because it clashes with their political agenda of attacking capitalism. In addition, Al Gore and his liberal friends have a lot invested - financially - in their "carbon offset" businesses. Flouresecent light bulbs are but one small part of their overall scheme. The point of those critical of this article is this: Jackie Savitz tried to pull the old lib trick of accusing your opponent of the very thing you yourself are engaged in. In this case, pure politics.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 12/23/08 - 08:04 am
0
0
Name one person that has gone

Name one person that has gone mad or has suffered a single ill effect because of the mercury that originated from Olin. How could someone that smokes complain about Olin? How could someone that drives a car complain about Olin? How could someone that cleans their house complain about Olin? How could someone that has ever broken a flourescent bulb complain about Olin? The fact is that Olin is an easy target that gives Oceana a presence in the media world that loves to create monsters for the rest of the world to fear.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 12/23/08 - 10:10 am
0
0
My theory: The rush to

My theory: The rush to fluorescent light bulbs for homes has resulted in a mercury shortage. By closing the Olin plant, Olin will sell its several tons of mercury (safely contained in electrolytic cells as we speak) to the fluorescent light bulb industry so they can put the mercury in the light bulbs to be broken and evaporated all over the country.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 12/23/08 - 10:14 am
0
0
Here's an error in Pavey's

Here's an error in Pavey's story: "environmental groups contend companies can save money on electricity, waste disposal and environmental compliance by switching to modern technology." What the environmental groups do not say is that the caustic soda produced by the "modern technology" can be made no stronger than 30% NaOH, where the caustic soda produced by mercury cells is 50% NaOH. If you compute ALL the costs, it is more expensive to make caustic soda by the "modern technology" (i.e., membranes). By singling out only the costs of electricity, waste disposal and environmental compliance, the environmental groups are being dishonest in their propaganda.

Arnie521
0
Points
Arnie521 12/26/08 - 12:43 pm
0
0
Sorry, "Little Lamb", but

Sorry, "Little Lamb", but there's no mercury shortage. US use of mercury has dropped 90% since 1980 and is continuing to fall. We are recovering about as much mercury as we use from recycling and gold mining. Lighting accounts for about 2% of total use, and manufacturers are continuing to reduce the amount of mercury in bulbs. Mercury mines around the world are stopping production due to lack of demand and the huge amounts of mercury that will be released globally as mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants reach the end of the useful lives.

To "DuhJudge": The mercury in an individual fish cannot be traced to a particular source. All worldwide environmental releases contribute to the global circulation of mercury, some of which ends up in fish. There are documented cases of adverse effects of the total mercury burden on people in the US and elsewhere. See, for example, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 111, No. 4, April 2003, http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2003/5837/abstract.html

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