Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Olin Corp. Invites Georgians To See What They Are Willing To Do For Others But Not For Them

(Interesting update at bottom)
I try to focus on mercury emission legislation and not report on individual plant issues but I have had a soft spot in my heart for the Oceana group and their fight to eliminate mercury from all chlorine manufacturing. So this story jumped out at me.

See older posts on subject here, here, here and here.

Olin has invited the folks living in the Augusta area to watch a program on the Discovery Channel about how cool they are making chlorine without mercury up in Niagara Falls, NY. They must have done this simply to rub Georgians' noses in it, because they refuse to employ the same technique in their Augusta plant. What are the people of Georgia to think about while they watch this show? "Gee, that is really neat how they don't pollute the water anymore up in New York."

A couple excerpts from a Blog called The Outsider at Augusta.com will explain.

Ever wondered how Olin makes chlorine? Next week’s Discovery Channel program, HowStuffWorks, features the company’s modern—and mercury-free—plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

“Because we have a production facility in your area, we believe local residents could be interested in watching,” said a news release sent to us this week from Olin’s corporate headquarters.

David Blair, Olin’s plant manager in Augusta, said the episode will help explain how the Niagara Falls plant uses salt brine and electricity to manufacture chlorine. “We want to encourage local residents to watch the Discovery Channel program.”

Olin isn’t the only organization that hopes Augustans will watch the show, which will air at 8 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, Jan. 29.

Jackie Savitz, senior campaign director at the environmental group Oceana, said the episode might help highlight differences between new chlorine factories that do not emit mercury and older ones—like Olin’s Augusta plant—that still use mercury.

“The Niagara Falls plant does not use mercury,” she said. “In fact, it’s a perfect example of our vision for Augusta.”

Ms. Savitz believes all mercury emissions associated with the chlorine industry should be eliminated. More than 95 percent of U.S. chlorine plants have converted to mercury-free technology, she said, and the only sites still using mercury today include Olin’s 43-year-old Augusta plant and three others in Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio.

“They used to use mercury in Niagara Falls and they switched to mercury free. As a result, they are running a cleaner, more efficient plant, stabilizing the jobs and their place in the community,” Ms. Savitz said. “That is what we would like to see happen in Augusta.”

This kind of PR move blows my mind. Why call attention to your negligence in an area where it is most felt. I hope the folks in Augusta do watch the show, as well as everyone else, so we can pressure Olin and the other last holdouts to stop this unnecessary practice.

I want to thank Rob Peavy for bringing this to my attention.

UPDATE: Mercury from Chlor-alkali plants not only pollutes water, it potentially makes its way into our food products. I just found this (provisional) abstract on Environmental Health. Just more reason to stop using mercury in the production of chlorine.

Abstract (provisional)

Mercury cell chlor-alkali products are used to produce thousands of other products including food ingredients such as citric acid, sodium benzoate, and high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is used in food products to enhance shelf life. A pilot study was conducted to determine if high fructose corn syrup contains mercury, a toxic metal historically used as an anti-microbial. High fructose corn syrup samples were collected from three different manufacturers and analyzed for total mercury. The samples were found to contain levels of mercury ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 to 0.570 micrograms mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup. Average daily consumption of high fructose corn syrup is about 50 grams per person in the United States. With respect to total mercury exposure, it may be necessary to account for this source of mercury in the diet of children and sensitive populations.

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