Ineos, Invista rank high as state polluters


March 19, 2009 at 6 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2009 at 10:19 p.m.

Two chemical producers, one in Victoria County and one in Calhoun County, made the state's top 10 list for chemical releases to the environment.

Ineos Nitriles Green Lake in Calhoun County was second, releasing more than 17 million pounds.

Invista's Victoria site placed fourth with more than 6 million pounds.

Nationally, Ineos ranks third and Invista ranks 14th on a list of the top 50 polluting plants in the chemical industry, according to agency data.

The lists come from the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory report based on data from the year 2007, according to an agency news release Thursday.

The law requires the report's issuance every year to inform residents of the chemicals present in their neighborhood environments so they can make informed decisions about environmental issues, said Larry Starfield, acting regional administrator for the agency's Region 6.

"The TRI report also serves as a strong incentive for businesses to find innovative ways to reduce or prevent pollution," Starfield said via the release.

About 99 percent of Ineos' chemical waste goes into deep wells or injection wells, said site director Skip Sockell. Most of the waste is in the form of ammonium sulfate, or fertilizer.

"It's safe. It gets it out of the biosphere and traps it under rock formations a mile deep," Sockell said.

The amount of chemical release on the inventory report is tied to actual production, he added. In a year, the plant produces 500,000 metric tons of raw materials for plastic and fibers, exported in liquid form mostly to Asia.

The Ineos plant will use better equipment in its expansion, which will be completed this summer. Plant capacity will expand 15 percent, but that will result in only a 12 percent waste growth.

"It's just more efficient," Sockell said.

Invista's sheer size and production of nylon chemicals, like Ineos, gets it on the state's top 10 list, said spokeswoman Amy Hodges. The plant in Victoria County maintains four units that produce material for use throughout the country and world.

Most of Invista's releases, more than 80 percent, exit as wastewater into the on-site deep well injection disposal system. Deep well injection is "rigorously permitted and approved by the EPA," she added.

The company strives to operate within permit levels and preaches 10,000 percent compliance, she said. That's 100 percent of employees complying 100 percent with all environmental, healthy and safety regulations, she explained.

Attorney Sandra McKenzie declined to comment on the release of chemicals by Ineos and Invista, saying she would not do so without a chance to study the data submitted by the companies. But she was critical of the Toxic Release Inventory.

"The Toxic Release Inventory does not give a complete picture of community exposure for two reasons: One, it's industry self-reported data frequently not verified by the EPA, and two, the toxic release inventory law does not require all releases and discharges of toxic substances be included in the company's toxic release report," said McKenzie, who has represented people with injuries from exposure to chemicals at work or in the environment since 1985. "So, it's the fox and the hen house."

McKenzie likened companies self-reporting their pollution to speeders self-reporting their speed to police officers who stop them.

"You have to rely that the industry is going to be honest about its discharge," McKenzie said.



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