EPA: Fewer toxic chemicals emitted into WV air in 2011 - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

EPA: Fewer toxic chemicals emitted into WV air in 2011

Posted: Updated:
  • EnergyEnergyMore>>

  • Ohio steel company acquires assets in Severstal, part owner of Mountain State Carbon

    Ohio steel company acquires assets in Severstal, part owner of Mountain State Carbon

    Monday, July 21 2014 11:54 AM EDT2014-07-21 15:54:19 GMT
    Ohio-based AK Steel has signed a $700 million cash agreement to acquire Severstal North America’s integrated steelmaking assets in Dearborn, Michigan, as well as a cokemaking facility and interests in three joint ventures that process flat-rolled steel products, the company announced July 21.
    Ohio-based AK Steel has signed a $700 million cash agreement to acquire Severstal North America’s integrated steelmaking assets in Dearborn, Michigan, as well as a cokemaking facility and interests in three joint ventures that process flat-rolled steel products, the company announced July 21.
  • Bethany College gets in the gas business

    Bethany College gets in the gas business

    Sunday, July 20 2014 8:00 AM EDT2014-07-20 12:00:20 GMT
    In the Village of Bethany, you will find Bethany College, a post office and Chambers General Store. And on a hot summer morning, you’ll be lucky to see a car on Main Street.
    In the Village of Bethany, you will find Bethany College, a post office and Chambers General Store. And on a hot summer morning, you’ll be lucky to see a car on Main Street.
  • Pa. community college plans process technology curriculum

    Pa. community college plans process technology curriculum

    Saturday, July 19 2014 6:00 PM EDT2014-07-19 22:00:22 GMT
    It started with a week-long trip to Texas and a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
    It started with a week-long trip to Texas and a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Releases of toxic chemicals in 2011 in West Virginia were 14 percent below the level in 2010.

Even more astonishing, they were down almost half from 2008 levels.

Nearly all of the reason: pollution controls on modern power plants, along with reduced generation at aged plants that haven't been worth updating.

The change mainly reflects the most recent successes in the electric utilities' many-year, multi-billion-dollar project to clean up coal-fired power plants. They do that by installing scrubbers to control sulfur dioxide emissions and selective catalytic reduction units to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides.

It also reflects reduced generation at old plants that haven't gotten modern pollution controls.

The emissions data come from the Toxics Release Inventory for 2011, the subject of a Jan. 16 Environmental Protection Agency analysis. Reported in pounds for numerous pollutants, TRI data aggregates volumes of emissions. It does not, at its broadest level, distinguish among more and less toxic types of pollutants and their effects on humans and the environment.

Here's the big picture: In 2008, "point source air emissions" — stuff coming out of smokestacks — totaled 45 million pounds in West Virginia, about two-thirds of all releases of toxic chemicals reported to the EPA for the state.

In 2011, that was just 18.7 million pounds, less than half the total and a difference of 26 million pounds.

The state's largest power plant, AEP's John Amos plant in Putnam County, accounts for most of that. Scrubbers that came online on its three generating units starting in 2009 and ending in 2011 took 14.3 million pounds of emissions a year out of the air between 2008 and 2011.

Also scrubbed during that period was FirstEnergy's Fort Martin power plant in Monongalia County. That took it down by another 4.7 million pounds of air emissions.

Reduced generation at AEP's 1950s-vintage Philip Sporn plant in Mason County cut air emissions by another 3 million pounds over the period, and reduced generation at its 1950s Kammer plant in Marshall County — emissions reported together with the adjacent Mitchell station — accounts for another 1.5 million pounds. Both Sporn and Kammer are slated for retirement.

The project to modernize the state's coal generation fleet has shifted the profile of the counties in the Toxics Release Inventory.

In 2008, Putnam County, where Amos is located, had the highest level of what is categorized as "on-site" releases, at 15.4 million pounds, and Mason County, home to Sporn, was second at 7.3 million.

But in 2011, Mason County was fourth and Putnam had fallen to tenth.

Topping the list in 2011 was Harrison County, where FirstEnergy's scrubbed, 1970s-vintage Harrison power station is located, at a far-lower 6.0 million pounds. Pleasants County, which hosts FirstEnergy's scrubbed 1980 Pleasants power station and the little-used and since shuttered 1950s-era Willow Island plant, came in at 5.2 million pounds.

It must be noted that, as emissions are scrubbed at modern power plants, toxic chemicals emitted into the air drop dramatically, but those that must be disposed of in the capturing solid medium of coal combustion residuals, or "coal ash," rise.