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Eramet cited for exceeding air pollution particle levels

By Tom Hrach, thrach@mariettatimes.com

Eramet of Marietta has been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for emitting too much particulate matter into the air from one of the furnaces at its plant.

The company has 30 days to conduct a meeting with EPA to discuss the issue, and come up with a plan to resolve it. The limits on particulate matter are part of the federal Clean Air Act, which all companies must follow.

No one from the company was available to discuss the issue on Monday. Eramet is a producer of ferromanganese products at its plant on Ohio 7 between Marietta and Belpre.

Particulate matter is a concern for people because inhaling high concentrations can affect children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases, according to the U.S. EPA.

Particulate matter is also one of the six primary pollutants in the air, which can cause health concerns for people, said Eric Fitch, director of the environmental science program at Marietta College.

Particulate matter can range in size from microscopic particles to pieces of ash that can actually be seen and darken the skies. Fitch said particulate matter is one of the products of combustion, and he said they can exacerbate breathing problems and make people sick.

"Particulates are a major concern. And it's the stuff that you can't see that is almost as dangerous as the stuff you can see," Fitch said.

Bill Omohundro, spokesman for the U.S. EPA from Chicago, said a required test was conducted of emissions at the plant on June 12. It showed that one furnace at the plant exceeded the federal standard for particulate matter during that test.

"It's a preliminary finding. We have put the company on notice, and now the company can rebut our allegations," Omohundro said. "It's premature to discuss what might happen or if there would be a penalty."

The likely scenario is that the U.S. EPA would issue a compliance order to reduce the emissions. But the company could be filed or a suit could be brought against the company if the issue is not addressed.

Specifically, the test showed that the furnace had emitted 39.14 pounds of particulate matter during the testing period, and the allowable limit is 35.9 pounds. Omohundro said that it is the first time the company has been cited for violating that particular Clean Air standard.


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