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Emissions confirmed in samples

By Kevin Pierson

Find out more

n Neighbors for Clean Air meeting: 7 p.m., June 8, at First Presbyterian Church, Marietta, corner of Fourth and Wooster Streets.

n To pick up a copy of the citizen audit: Available at the meeting, at or by calling Neighbors for Clean Air at 374-0975 or Ohio Citizen Action at 513-221-2100.

Test results from swipe samples and air monitoring performed by Neighbors for Clean Air in April confirmed the presence of compounds from Eramet Marietta, according to a 26-page citizen audit released by the group and Ohio Citizen Action Thursday.

Results from swipe samples conducted by the group found the presence of manganese in all eight test samples, and chromium in all but one. Eramet officials said Thursday the presence of manganese and chromium should not be surprising since the company annually documents its emissions to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the report, air monitoring performed by the group also found a pattern of increasing ammonia release after midnight, which was consistent with previous complaints made by area residents about an “increase in the strong, unpleasant odor.”

“We found that indeed their materials are going out into the community,” said Ruth Breech, southern Ohio program director for Ohio Citizen Action, a grass roots environmental group dedicated to reducing pollution.

Ethan Frank-Collins, human resources manager at Eramet, disputed the findings concerning the odor because even the audit itself states that the amount of ammonia detected in the air was below the level that most people can smell.

“If the ammonia they’re capturing is below the threshold for ammonia then that’s not part of what they’re describing as an odor,” Frank-Collins said.

The audit later implies that the odor could be caused by unidentified compounds that are combining with the ammonia off-site from Eramet. Frank-Collins said these unidentified compounds have not been shown to have come from Eramet and could have originated anywhere else in the area.

Eramet released about 800,000 pounds of ammonia in 2004, up almost 600,000 pounds, from 2002 when the company released about 200,000 pounds according to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.

No health effects have been discovered in people exposed to low levels of ammonia in the environment, the citizen audit says.

The swipe samples were conducted at eight locations in Washington and Wood counties including two in Marietta.

Toxic Release Inventory reports from 2004 show that almost 500,000 pounds of manganese are emitted into the air and almost 4 million pounds total are discharged at Eramet with about 3 million of that contained on site.

Discovery of manganese emissions was not a surprise to Frank-Collins who said that rather than focusing on what’s released into the community the focus should be on how much is stopped.

“It’s certainly not surprising there would be manganese in samples. There’s no secret about what our emissions consist of,” Frank-Collins said. “The vast majority of these are prevented from leaving the plant property.”

Dust with manganese and chromium in it is a concern because it can lead to health problems similar to Parkinson’s disease, the audit says, though it doesn’t cite a source for that information. Breech said the information comes from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services.

Further studies on the effects of the compounds are planned, but Breech said the chemicals shouldn’t be released if there’s any question about their safety.

“If you’re putting something in the air you should err on the side of caution,” Breech said. “The chemicals should be guilty until proven innocent.”

Breech and the Neighbors for Clean Air have been frustrated in their “good neighbor” campaign by an inability to meet face-to-face with Eramet officials.

Breech said the group would like to talk to company officials and have sent more than 3,800 letters to Eramet. Frank-Collins disputed that, saying only about 30 of the letters have been from local residents with the rest coming from as far as 200 miles away.

Also, Eramet officials have recently met with the environmental group RECOVER but do not plan to meet with Neighbors for Clean Air because they feel the group has been making false statements about the facility and causing undue concern for the community, Frank-Collins said.


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