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Texas releases most mercury to air
State also No. 1 in emissions of chemicals from manufacturing

05/24/2002

By RANDY LEE LOFTIS
The Dallas Morning News

Texas led the nation in air emissions of highly toxic mercury in 2000, largely from coal-burning power plants, according to the first comprehensive inventory of mercury pollution.

The state also ranked first in total releases of all chemicals from manufacturing plants, almost 248 million pounds, according to federal Toxic Release Inventory figures announced Thursday. When big releases from other industries such as mining are included, Texas ranked fifth, unchanged from 1999.

EMISSIONS
Highest toxic releases from manufacturing, 2000

Texas 248,026,800 lbs.

Ohio 143,934,158 lbs.

Pennsylvania 141,512,899 lbs.

Indiana 138,393,800 lbs.

Louisiana 135,384,234 lbs.

Highest toxic releases from all industries, 2000

Nevada 1,008,269,713 lbs.

Utah 955,941,798 lbs.

Arizona 744,720,144 lbs.

Alaska 535,489,271 lbs.

Texas 301,518,708 lbs.

For more information, including a search for toxic releases in your county or ZIP code, go to www.epa.gov/tri.

Environmental groups used the figures on mercury, a particular risk to children, to call on Texas officials to control the toxic metal on their own. They said the Bush administration's federal clean-air proposals would let coal-burning utilities triple mercury emissions. Electric utilities accounted for 46 percent of Texas' mercury releases.

"Texas should act now to reduce mercury from all sources," said Karen Hadden, deputy director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, a group in Austin. "We don't think they should wait for the feds."

Texas officials said state actions already protect the public.

"There is no question that statewide programs already in place to reduce air pollution will continue to reduce toxic air emissions in Texas," Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission member Ralph Marquez said in a written statement.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues Toxic Release Inventory figures each year. The inventory lists emissions of 650 toxic chemicals to the air, water, land, public sewage systems or offsite disposal and recycling from 23,500 facilities nationwide.

Total chemical emissions from all industries dropped by 9 percent between 1999 and 2000, to 7.1 billion pounds. Since reporting began in 1988, chemical releases have decreased by about 48 percent, the EPA says.

Releases of all chemicals in Texas dropped by about 4 percent in 2000. In Dallas County, the reduction was far greater, 22 percent, almost entirely because of cuts in copper and copper compounds released from a single plant, Tube Forming Inc. in Carrollton.

With Tube Forming excluded, releases in Dallas County dropped 2.9 percent in 2000, to 2.91 million pounds.

Experts watched this year's figures with particular interest because they include expanded information on substances called persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals, or PBTs.

PBTs are toxic substances that remain in the environment a long time and become more concentrated as they move up the food chain. They include mercury, dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and a number of pesticides.

Industries in Texas released almost 705,000 pounds of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals in 2000, fifth among the states. That figure includes 610,600 pounds of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause brain damage, mental retardation and other nervous system, digestive and kidney problems in children.

Nevada released more total mercury than Texas, more than 3 million pounds, but nearly all of that was land-based releases from mining. Texas' release of 19,848 pounds into the air was the highest air-release amount in the nation.

Releases of dioxin, which is extremely toxic in tiny doses, totaled about 220 pounds nationwide. Texas was third, with about 38.4 pounds. More than one-third of the state's total came from one plant, an Oxy Vinyls facility in La Porte in southeast Texas.

E-mail rloftis@dallasnews.com

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