WVEC Action Alert

March 14, 2007

Below:


Public Comment: WV NPDES Water Pollution Control Permit Modification for PPG Industries (Applicant No. WV 0004359) located in Natrium, W.Va.

The deadline for comments is March 18, 2007. Submit letters to:

Director, Division of Water and Waste Management, DEP
ATTN:  Michelle Brenner, Permitting Section
601 57th Street SE
Charleston, WV  25304-2345
MBRENNER@wvdep.org

Background:

PPG Industries, located in Natrium W.Va., recently applied for a modification to their NPDES discharge permit—which allows them to release pollution into the Ohio River.

According to the permit, PPG’s Natrium facility produces numerous chemicals, including chlorine. The major concern with this permit relates to PPG’s use of mercury during chlorine production; whereas, the company releases this harmful metal into the Ohio River.

PPG is already considered West Virginia’s largest source of mercury pollution into the state’s rivers.

In the current permit, PPG is seeking a mixing zone that will allow them to release even more mercury into the river from one of their outlets, 004. A mixing zone allows the company to take advantage of the dilution that occurs as the pollution moves downstream.

With a mixing zone, PPG will be able to release nearly four times more mercury into the river from Outlet 004.

PPG was previously ineligible for a mixing zone because the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, ORSANCO—which recommends water quality rules for the Ohio River—previously did not allow them. However, ORSANCO changed this rule last fall, allowing PPG to submit a mixing zone application.

The current public comment period relates to PPG’s application for a mixing zone for Outlet 004. Oddly—this outlet is the “lesser of two evils” because PPG releases a considerably larger amount of mercury into the river from another outlet, 009. West Virginia Rivers Coalition (WVRC) expects PPG to apply for a mixing zone for this outlet, as well.

In the past, WVRC appealed PPG’s discharge permit, resulting in a court decision that required the company to use a more sensitive method to detect mercury. The company’s previous method allowed them to release mercury excessively into the Ohio River, including undetected levels from Outlet 004.

Last year, WVRC worked with numerous groups along the Ohio River to prevent ORSANCO from changing their rules to allow mixing zones. Despite an unfavorable rule change, WVRC continues a multi-state partnership to improve water quality in the Ohio River.

WVRC continues providing technical support for OCEANA’s efforts to compel PPG to switch to mercury-free technology, a goal they accomplished at PPG’s Louisiana plant.
Talking Points:

Please let the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) know that you are opposed to allowing a mixing zone modification for Outlet 004 at PPG’s Natrium facility.

  • Mixing zones for bioaccumulative chemical of concern—such as mercury—should be granted only when proven necessary. PPG has only recently become aware of its actual mercury discharges from Outlet 004. As a result, the company made attempts to come into compliance with state water quality rules. A mixing zone is a disincentive for PPG to continue minimizing their mercury discharges.
  • The permit violates anti-backsliding provisions. WVDEP does not allow permits to be reissued with less stringent limits than those in the previous permit. There are several “exceptions” to this rule, however, PPG’s request for a mixing zone does not meet these criteria.
  • PPG’s permit modification request violates antidegradation requirements. The Ohio River is not currently listed on West Virginia’s 303(d) list of “impaired waters” for mercury. Federal and state antidegradation requirements therefore currently prohibit the deterioration of water quality for the Ohio River. 
  • DEP has the discretion to deny a mixing zone request. PPG cannot expect to get a mixing zone simply because of ORSANCO’s rule change. WVDEP has the discretion to deny PPG’s mixing zone request and they should exercise this authority.

Other points:

  • West Virginia already has a fish consumption advisory for every waterbody in the state because of mercury pollution. The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health recognizes the majority of human exposure to mercury comes from eating fish.
  • Mercury causes serious health effects, including impaired neurological development in fetuses, infants, and children. Other impacts adversely affect cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills in both children and adults.
  • The West Virginia legislature has recognized that both known and unknown health effects may occur from mercury exposure (House Bill No. 4135: Effective March 11, 2006).
  • The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health has recommended that WVDEP should continue to reduce mercury releases into the environment because of adverse health effects.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Adam Webster
Conservation Director
West Virginia Rivers Coalition
329 Davis Avenue  Suite #7
Elkins, WV  26241
(304) 637-7201
awebster@wvrivers.or

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March 17: 7 – 10 p.m. Concert for Mountain Justice. WVSU Capitol Center, 123 Summers St., Charleston WV. Featuring Elaine Purkey, Willie Dodson, Andrew McKnight, Keith and Joan Pitzer, Sound Storm. $5 or donation, at the door.

Help spread the word—print and post a flier on the event. See www.climateaction.net/mjsb or the press release

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P.O. Box 1007, Charleston WV 25324   (304) 414-0143   www.wvecouncil.org