Friday, November 16, 2001

Eramet cuts its toxic air emissions

Plant officials, others seek source of odor

By Tom Hrach
The Marietta Times

An official with Eramet is defending the company against citizen comments made at an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency meeting that the plant is the source of foul odors noticed by people who live nearby.
The Wednesday hearing attracted about 100 people, many of whom were critical of the plant and its emissions. Rik Melvin, manager of environmental affairs with Eramet, attended but did not speak to the group.
"The object was to get comments on the draft permits," Melvin said. "I didn't see it as a forum for company officials to make speeches. I can assure you I took notes, and brought them back to our management."
Eramet is the largest industrial employer in the county, supplying work to about 480 people.
Melvin said Eramet has decreased its toxic air emissions by 39 percent from 1999 to 2000, a significant decrease of more than 1.7 million pounds of material. He said the new permits do not allow the company to emit any more pollution than it does now.
The hearing was specifically about consolidating the company's air pollution permits, but many citizens took the opportunity to talk about other issues at the plant. The plant was accused of causing health problems in citizens and destroying the quality of life for citizens.
"If they say they've reduced it, I'm in no position to say it's right or not right. But as far as living here, I can say we still get this obnoxious odor more often that I want to admit," said Tom Hockenbrocht of Pine Lane, just outside of Marietta. "I just think there's more to what's happening there than we know in our community."
Melvin is working with a group of citizens on an Odor Task Force, hoping to get to the bottom of the complaints from citizens who live near the plant. The odor issue was brought up by more than one citizen at the Wednesday hearing.
"They are looking for the source just as we are," Melvin said. "But when they look at these high numbers, they say that's it ... We know there is a problem with odor, but let's not confuse it with other issues."
The new toxic release figures from Eramet will be part of the Ohio EPA's annual toxic emissions report early next year that compares all toxic releases in the state. Last year's report showed that Eramet was the fourth largest emitter of toxic chemicals in the state.
But in the new report, which is due in April 2002, Melvin said the public will notice Eramet falling on the list of top toxic polluters.
One of the reasons is that the company closed one of its production units in October 2000, and that significantly reduced the amount of toxic chemicals released to the land and the air.
The total toxic releases from the plant in 2000 was 11,808,000, which is an 18.8 percent reduction. Melvin expects even greater reductions in 2001 because the effect of the closed production unit will be for the entire year.
"The odor problem is not related to this, but sometimes no one wants to believe it," Melvin said. "We are working with the task force and trying to analyze this as best as we can."