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Ohio tops nation in 2001 for dirty air discharges

Ohio ranked first nationally in terms of air discharges in 2001, releasing more than 121 million pounds of pollutants into the atmosphere, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's annual Toxic Release Inventory issued Monday.

The state ranked sixth overall for discharges of all pollutants, but trailed Texas and Louisiana as the third most-popular place for waste to be injected deep underground.

That's largely because nearly 32 million pounds of chemical waste were injected underground that year between Vickery Environmental, Inc.'s operation in Sandusky County and BP Chemicals, Inc.'s plant in Allen County, records show.

Ohio was ninth for surface-water discharges. Michigan, which was ranked 14th overall for combined discharges, was 15th nationally for air emissions, 8th for underground injections, and 36th for surface-water discharges.

Jack Shaner, Ohio Environmental Council spokesman, said the state's ranking as the nation's top emitter of air pollutants “belies the myth that New England's problems originate in New England.”

“It's a serious problem and we ought to be more serious about preventing it,” he said.

Cindy DeWulf, assistant chief of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution control division, said she was not surprised by Ohio's overall ranking.

“We have one of the largest number of reporting industries for TRI, being an industrial state,” she said. “We're usually in the Top 10 [overall].”

On a nationwide county-by-county breakdown, Lucas ranked 58th.

Allen, Sandusky, and Monroe counties ranked higher. Allen was 44th, Sandusky was 53rd, and Monroe was 56th, according to the EPA figures.

Information was analyzed from 2,472 counties nationally.

Although the figures provide tallies of releases that have been reported by industry, they don't necessarily represent the level of exposure faced by people living in those counties.

Three-quarters of the 16.5 million pounds released in Lucas County, for example, was primarily electric arc furnace dust buried at the hazardous waste landfill on Otter Creek Road operated by Envirosafe Services of Ohio, Inc. The landfill is required to keep the waste inside the dump.

The numbers in Allen and Sandusky counties were driven up by wastes that are allowed to be injected deep underground there by BP Chemicals, Inc., and Vickery Environmental, Inc.

Monroe's figures were driven up by the 10 million pounds of air emissions from Detroit Edison Co.'s coal plant in Monroe, one of the nation's largest, records show.

Among just Ohio counties, Jefferson and Washington held the top two spots for overall releases. Allen, Sandusky, and Lucas ranked third, fourth, and sixth, respectively.

Defiance was 18th in Ohio, followed by Hancock at 29th, Wood at 35th, Wyandot at 37th, Hardin at 41st, Huron at 44th, and Erie at 49th. Van Wert was 52nd, Ottawa was 54th, Seneca was 56th, and Fulton was 62nd. Henry, Paulding, and Williams were 64th through 66th, respectively. Putnam was 69th.

Wayne was first among Michigan counties, followed by Monroe. Lenawee and Hillsdale were 26th and 35th, respectively.

The deadline for industries to submit 2002 figures was yesterday. State and federal officials will spend months compiling data for their next report.

Releases have been on the decline in many parts of the country, partly because of cutbacks in production because of the economy and partly because of enhanced techniques to help curb pollution.

Changes have been made over the years in the type of chemicals listed, officials said.

Mr. Shaner said he believes officials play up the figures when production is down to make pollution prevention efforts look more effective.

“Sadly, our nation and state pay only lip service to pollution prevention. We are an industrial state with industrial-sized pollution problems,” he said.

“Any letdown in enforcement just magnifies the impact,” Mr. Shaner said.

The U.S. EPA claimed chemical releases decreased 15.5 percent from 2000 to 2001.

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