Pennsylvania emits the second most mercury pollution in the United States-second only to Texas. While most of PA’s mercury comes from coal-fired power plants, a nearby chlorine plant may also increase the health risks to Pennsylvanians. With 36 coal-fired power plants emitting thousands of pounds of mercury every year, the citizens of Pennsylvania obviously have mercury on their minds (“State mercury plan draws support,” July 26 and PghTrib.com).
But they might also do some thinking about chlorine plants, which rival coal plants in mercury emissions. While there are no mercury-emitting chlorine plants in Pennsylvania, PPG, a Pittsburgh-based company, operates two chlorine plants that still use outdated mercury techniques. There are only eight such plants nationwide.
PPG’s plant in New Martinsville, W.Va., emitted over 1,200 pounds of mercury into the air and water 2004. Only 20 miles from the state line, the PPG plant could be adding to Pennsylvania’s mercury problems.
Newer membrane cell technology eliminates mercury use in chlorine plants. Already 90 percent of the industry uses this technology. PPG’s second plant in Louisiana is slated to change to this new technology by 2007.
Obviously the mercury issue has been on PPG’s mind as well. If PPG would use this technology to reduce mercury emissions, Pennsylvanians and others could put their minds at ease and breathe a little easier.