Ohio is listed as the No. 1
source of toxic chemical releases and transfers in a new
The state's top billing in the United States and
Canada is because of emissions from coal-burning
electric power plants and from heavy industrial
operations. A hazardous-waste landfill near Toledo and a
chemical complex in Lima that injects waste underground
also contributed the high ranking.
But experts did not agree on the meaning
of the numbers released yesterday by the Montreal-based
North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.
The data covers toxic chemicals polluting the air and
the water, as well as toxic chemicals going into
landfills and being recycled. Chemicals that are
recycled or reused in another way at a different site
are considered transfers rather than releases.
``It's hard to draw conclusions for what the numbers
mean,'' said Janine Ferretti, executive director of the
quasi-governmental environmental watchdog agency, which
was set up under the North American Free Trade
Randy Leffler, of the Ohio Manufacturing Association,
said the data does little more than indicate that Ohio
is ``a very strong manufacturing state . . . and is not
indicative of environmental problems.''
By contrast, Amy Simpson, of the Ohio Public Interest
Research Group, called the report ``quite disturbing''
but no surprise. ``It raises concerns for public health
and the environment,'' she said, `` . . . and Ohio needs
to reduce its use of toxic chemicals and reduce the
volume of toxic chemicals shipped into our state.''
Ohio's overall total for on-site and off-site
disposal of 165 toxic chemicals in 1998 was 358 million
pounds. That represents 8 percent of the total toxic
chemicals tracked in the report.
No. 2 on the list was Texas. Pennsylvania was third,
Ontario fourth and Indiana fifth.
Together, Ohio, Ontario and the other three states
accounted for 35 percent of all releases and transfers
of toxic chemicals in North America.
For several years, Ohio has been No. 1 in the federal
Toxic Release Inventory, in which companies report
releases to the federal and state governments. That data
is the basis of the Commission for Environmental
The state's total included nearly 304 million pounds
of toxics that went into the air, water or landfills or
were injected underground on site at 1,517 industrial
That on-site ranking put Ohio ahead of Texas,
Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Florida.
Of the 304 million pounds, 132 million pounds went
into the air and 5.4 million pounds into the water, the
report says. Releases to the air and water generally are
considered the most important because they can affect
human health and the environment, unlike other releases
In addition, the report ranked Ohio No. 4 for
off-site disposal with 54 million pounds. Ohio trailed
Ontario, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
In all, the United States and Canada had 3.58 million
tons of toxic chemicals released to the environment or
transferred off-site -- with a quarter of that total
coming from coal-burning power plants.
The two main toxic chemicals from electric utilities
are hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid derived from
burning coal. They accounted for 43 percent of the toxic
chemicals being released into the air.
The report did not cover the air pollutants sulfur
dioxide or nitrogen oxide, two of the main air
pollutants from burning coal. They contribute to acid
rain and unhealthful smog.
Three Ohio power plants -- including FirstEnergy
Corp.'s Sammis plant at Stratton on the Ohio River --
were among the Top 10 polluting coal-burning power
plants, the report said.
Overall, American and Canadian firms showed a slight
drop in the on-site and off-site release of toxic
chemicals from 1995 to 1998, and that's encouraging,
said Ferretti, whose agency is responsible for analyzing
data from the participating NAFTA countries to provide a
continental perspective on industrial pollution.
But there is concern for the growing volume of waste
shipped off site for treatment or disposal, she said.
The report says that pollution-prevention
programs are showing success, but more companies need to
About 15 percent of the chemicals covered in the
report cause cancer, with one third of that total going
into the air.
Two Stark County companies are listed in the report
for handling large volumes of cancer-causing chemicals.
American Steel Foundries in Alliance was No. 9 for
chromium and Envirite of Ohio in Canton Township was No.
11 for nickel and chromium. Both companies ship the
metals off site for disposal.
The 322-page report includes no data from Mexico
because that country does not track its releases of
The report is available at http://www.cec.org/ on
Bob Downing can be reached at
330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org