Toxic pollution down in Md. and nationwide

April 20, 1994|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Sun Staff Writer

Toxic pollution from factories continues to decline in Maryland and the rest of the country, but the amount of industrial waste requiring disposal is on the rise, the government reported yesterday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Maryland industries reported releasing 13 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the state's air, land and water in 1992, about 3 percent less than the year before.

The state ranked 41st in total toxic releases; Louisiana was No. 1.

The most-released chemicals in Maryland included toluene, a suspected cause of cancer; and ammonia and hydrochloric acid, both of which can cause skin, eye and lung irritations if inhaled. About 82 percent of all the pollutants released went into the air.

Environmentalists and government officials disagreed yesterday on whether the statistics demonstrated significant progress.

According to the EPA, U.S. factories reported releasing 3.2 billion pounds of toxic chemicals into the environment in 1992, 6.5 percent less than in 1991.

But a slight increase in unreleased wastes, which require treatment and recycling, shows that "clearly there are still many opportunities for preventing pollution by reducing the use of toxic chemicals," EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said in a statement accompanying release of the federal Toxic Release Inventory.

Nationwide, the unreleased wastes grew 0.5 percent in 1992, to 37.3 billion pounds, the EPA said, and industries project increases for the next two years.

The Toxic Release Inventory, which is required by federal law, covers more than 300 chemicals and is compiled from more than 80,000 reports from nearly 24,000 industrial facilities.

As reported by EPA, the 10 Maryland plants that released the most chemicals in 1992, with totals in pounds, were:

Westvaco Corp. in Luke, Allegany County, 2,012,100; Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant, 1,885,348; Quebecor Printing Inc. in Glen Burnie, 1,746,665; SCM Chemicals in Baltimore, 895,902; and General Motors Corp. in Baltimore, 704,459.

Also, American Cyanamid Co. in Havre de Grace, 465,803; W. R. Grace & Co. in Baltimore, 429,010; Nevamar Corp. in Odenton, 310,062; Chemetals Inc. in Baltimore, 277,016; and Garden State Tanning Inc. in Williamsport, Washington County, 253,873.

Since the inventories began five years ago, toxic industrial releases reported to the government have declined by 35 percent overall, compared with a 54 percent reduction since 1988 in Maryland.

But the EPA inventory omits some major sources of toxic pollution, such as automobiles, environmentalists said. They also said industries simply lowered their estimates of how much toxic pollution they released.

"The number they're quoting for reduction is inflated," said Jacqueline Savitz, a toxicologist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

She said the reported increase in industrial wastes generated demonstrated the need for state legislation, which died in the General Assembly this year, requiring Maryland industries to study ways to reduce the use of chemicals.

Government and industry spokesmen said the reported reductions reflect real progress. Michael Sullivan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, credited state limits on air and water pollution imposed in the last four years.

But Brian R. Martin, president of the Chemical Industry Council of Maryland, attributed most of the progress to voluntary reductions and recycling by companies.

WORST OFFENDERS

The 10 states and 10 U.S. companies that released the most chemicals into the environment in 1992, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Totals are in millions of pounds.

State .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Releases

1. Louisiana . .. .. .. .. 464.6

2. Texas .. .. .. .. .. .. 419.6

3. Tennessee . .. .. .. .. 194.2

4. Ohio .. ... .. .. .. .. 143.8

5. Indiana ... .. .. .. .. 124.3

6. Mississippi .. .. .. .. 119.7

7. Illinois .. .. .. .. .. 118.2

8. Alabama ... .. .. .. .. 112.4

9. North Carolina .. .. .. 103.6

10. Kansas ... .. .. .. .. 87.2

41. Maryland . .. .. .. .. 13.0

Company Releases

1. Du Pont ... .. .. .. .. 239.6

2. Freeport-McMoran ... .. 155.4

3. American Cyanamid .. .. 151.2

4. Monsanto Co. . .. .. .. 76.2

5. Asarco Inc. .. .. .. .. 68.9

6. Renco Group Inc. ... .. 62.2

7. Vulcan Materials Co. .. 60.6

8. Arcadian Fertilizer ... 56.7

9. Eastman Kodak Co. .. .. 55.1

10. BP America .. .. .. .. 54.4

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