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Foundry applies for air discharge permit

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POSTED: September 1, 2010 10:56 a.m.
State environmental officials are expected to act next month on a permit that would allow Firth Rixson Forgings to discharge 80 tons of particulates, including mercury, from its plant in the Tradeport East Business Center.
The only public comment on the application was submitted by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. In a letter to Environmental Protection Division Program Manager Eric Cornwell, Riverkeeper Chandra Brown pointed out that the Firth Rixson plant is a few miles from Ogeechee and Canoochee rivers. Under Federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, Brown said, both rivers already contain excessive amounts of mercury.
“It’s true the Firth Rixson application asks for only a small amount (.4-pound yearly) of mercury, but if we already have too much, we should not permit one more drop,” she said.
According to the federal total maximum daily load documents for mercury in fish in these river systems, 99 percent of the mercury in these systems is from air pollution. The riverkeeper asserts in her letter that permitting additional air sources of mercury in proximity to these rivers systems is a violation of the TMDL. TMDLs require a 38 percent reduction in mercury from air sources for the Canoochee River and a 42 percent reduction in mercury from air sources for the Ogeechee River.
Anna Chafin, speaking for the Liberty County Development Authority, which owns Tradeport, said, “Our understanding is that the amount of mercury is minuscule. Just like with all previous companies moving into Liberty County and Georgia, we look to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to require any needed protections before granting a permit. All questions on the permit should be referred to the DNR.”
Brown expressed concern about particulates that may be emitted in addition to mercury. According to Firth Rixson’s permit application, Brown wrote, “Firth Rixson will emit approximately 80 tons/year of particulate matter. According to the U.S. EPA, particulate matter can greatly affect human health.
“Particle pollution — especially fine particles — contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including:
• increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing
• decreased lung function
• aggravated asthma
• development of chronic bronchitis
• irregular heartbeat
• nonfatal heart attacks
• premature death in
 people with heart or lung disease.”
Although particulates are a health concern, 80 tons per year pales in comparison to the 1,000 tons of particulate matter coal-fired power plants can produce.
Firth Rixson did not respond to six e-mails and four phone calls seeking comment for this article.
Firth Rixson’s application and Brown’s public comment can be found at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.

 

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