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Pink plume promises

OEPA to provide written 'evidence' discharge harmless

 

By MIKE McKINNEY

Review Staff Writer

EAST LIVERPOOL -- City Health Commissioner Gary Ryan provided a letter at Tuesday's Board of Health meeting from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency saying that the so-called "pink plume" emissions from Von Roll Waste Technologies Industries are not harmful, but promised to press the agency for written "evidence" to that affect.

Ryan, speaking after the meeting, was making the request at the urging of local environmental activist Alonzo Spencer, who had, at the Jan. 18 meeting, requested formal action be taken to stop the facility from incinerating wastes containing iodine and bromide, which has periodically caused a visible pink plume to emanate from the facility's smokestack.

Spencer had originally made his request to the Columbiana County health board, who had deferred to the city.

Ryan had said he would request documentation from the EPA to establish that the plume is safe. Spencer had maintained the emissions are hazardous, and said he's been fighting the issue for more than two years.

At the Jan. 18 meeting, Spencer had asked for "positive proof" that the pink plume emissions are not harmful.

"I talked to the EPA, and they're going to provide some evidence on the safety of the pink plume," Ryan said after the meeting. "They're working on it."

Spencer had also asked Jan. 18 about a Nov. 24 release of an unknown quantity of mercaptan, a gas which is used to give natural gas its distinctive odor. Several complaints about the smell were made to local fire departments.

According to Spencer, mercaptan is a toxic gas which is harmful to the health of Tri-State Area residents.

However, Spencer provided a letter to health board members Tuesday from the Ohio EPA that maintained a mercaptan release, such as occurred in November, was not harmful because it was mostly steam generated by cleaning a tanker truck. This steam, while it retains the distinctive odor, also has a decreased flammability, according to the letter.

When Spencer was contacted after the meeting regarding the pink plume issue, he said he wants to see written evidence of "who did the investigation to determine" that pink plume emissions were not harmful. He said he wants to know "what exact quantities were measured and what exact quantities were released and measured." Local environmentalists have, in the past, questioned the validity of air samples taken at Von Roll WTI.

"If it supports what they say, good" Spencer said after Tuesday's meeting.

Ohio EPA Spokesman Kara Allison said last month that the EPA has found nothing harmful regarding the pink plume emissions. Mercaptan, according to Allison, is not technically classified as a hazardous waste and is not harmful if used at low levels. Even a large release does not pose a significant threat, she added, because mercaptan quickly dissipates in air.

City health board members asked Ryan at Tuesday's meeting who is notified, and when, in cases of pink plume emissions and releases of mercaptan. Ryan said he would provide that information at the next meeting.

In other matters, Ryan informed the board that a rat which had bitten a 10-year-old boy on Minerva Street Monday had tested negative for rabies at the state health department in Columbus.

The animal's head was sent there for analysis after the boy kicked the rat against a tree and killed it.

The state does not normally test rodents, Ryan said, but did for the city at no charge because of the rat's proximity to areas frequented by raccoons, which can carry rabies.

Ryan also provided a 1996 book of chemical warning placards to Spencer, who agreed to give them to fellow East End resident Virgil Reynolds.

Reynolds had asked for six copies of such a book at the Jan. 18 meeting.

The health board's next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 27.

Contact the Review: Jody Powers (Managing Editor) -- Cindy Veness (Advertising Director ) -- (CirculatioDirector)