No Excuses: Oceana Report Details Need for Chlorine Plants to Stop Using Mercury

Jul 18, 2007, 01:00 ET from Oceana

    WASHINGTON, July 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Five chlorine plants that are among
 the top mercury polluters in the United States would reap economic benefits
 if they eliminated mercury use, Oceana said today in a new report. Cleaning
 Up: Taking Mercury-Free Chlorine Production to the Bank, analyzes over 115
 chlorine plants that are shifting or have successfully eliminated mercury
 use. It then shows how the remaining U.S. plants could protect public
 health and the environment, while increasing profits, by switching to
 mercury-free technology.
     Simply switching to mercury-free technology - already used to produce
 90 percent of the chlorine in the United States - would increase energy
 efficiency and provide an opportunity to increase capacity, sales and
 profits. Instead, these five facilities remain wedded to 110-year-old
 technology, releasing on average, four times more mercury per plant, than
 the average power plant.
     "The chlorine industry's dirty little secret is that five U.S. plants
 are releasing thousands of pounds of mercury into the environment each
 year," said Jackie Savitz, Director of Oceana's Campaign to Stop Seafood
 Contamination. "Their refusal to switch to mercury-free technology - a
 cost-effective solution adopted by the majority of plants around the world
 - is an outrage that should concern citizens and shareholders alike."
     The five plants - or Filthy Five as the report labels them - are Ashta
 Chemicals in Ashtabula, Ohio; Olin Corporation's two plants in Charleston,
 Tenn., and Augusta, Ga.; PPG Industries in Natrium, W.Va.; and ERCO
 Worldwide in Port Edwards, Wis.
     Key Findings:
     -- If the Filthy Five eliminated mercury use, nearly 4,400 pounds of
        reported mercury emissions would be eliminated each year. (It takes
        just 1/70th of a teaspoon to contaminate a 25 acre lake.)
     -- Although the cost of converting to mercury-free technology runs in the
        millions, the report shows the majority of costs could be recovered
        within five years due to energy savings, increased capacity and
        elimination of fines, upgrades and cleanups.
     -- Plants that shift save millions of dollars by increasing energy
        efficiency from 25 to 37 percent.
     -- Many plants also increase capacity by 20 to 80 percent in the process
        of converting, increasing sales and profit.
     -- If just four of the Filthy Five increased capacity by 25 percent,
        collective sales would increase by more than $300 million.
     -- ERCO's plant in Wisconsin and Olin's plant in Tennessee are the number
        one mercury air polluters in their states, while Olin in Georgia and
        Ashta in Ohio are the third largest sources of mercury air pollution in
        their states. PPG in West Virginia is the top releaser of mercury to
        water in the state.
     Most human mercury exposure results from eating contaminated fish. It
 can cause serious health problems, especially in children, with very high
 exposure levels leading to brain damage, mental retardation, blindness,
 seizures and speech problems. An EPA scientist estimated that one in six
 women has enough mercury in her blood to pose serious neurological risks to
 her developing child. The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration have
 cautioned women of childbearing age and children to avoid certain types of
 seafood due to the risk of mercury poisoning. All five states where
 mercury-cell chlorine plants operate have issued fish consumption
 advisories for mercury in their rivers and lakes.
     Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans. Our teams
 of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and
 concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible
 collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. For more
 information, visit