I'm happy to report that since our first chlorine report came out in January, 2005, a third mercury-based chlorine plant has announced it will stop using the polluting mercury technology that has been the focus of our campaign! From the Nasty Nine to the Slimy Six!
Here is a clip from the recent story in the Florence, Alabama TimesDaily newspaper:
On Friday, Larry Meriage, vice president of communications and public relations for Occidental Petroleum, confirmed that the company plans to stop mercury cell production, which the Muscle Shoals plant uses to produce various chemicals.
"We have not yet determined how this will affect Muscle Shoals," Meriage said.
After Occidental Petroleum's senior management meeting Thursday in Los Angeles, speculation began circulating about the fate of the Muscle Shoals plant once the company halts mercury cell production.
An audio recording and accompanying presentation from the management meeting was published on the company's Web site.
A slide in that presentation did confirm that the company has plans to eliminate mercury production but did not mention the Muscle Shoals plant by name.
Meriage said there are multiple reasons that the company wants to halt mercury cell production.
"Part of it is environmental, and there are also newer technologies that are available," Meriage said.
The news was encouraging for several environmental groups.
Jackie Savitz, pollution control director for the Washington, D.C.-based environmental organization Oceana, applauded Occidental's plans.
"We hope Occidental will share with the public their timeline for making this shift, and when they do, we look forward to offering them our most sincere congratulations. This would be the third of the 'nasty nine' mercury-based chlorine plants to stop using mercury since we launched our campaign just over a year ago, and two of them were Occidental plants. The other six plants should follow Occidental's lead so we can take mercury out of the chlorine picture, once and for all."
The organization, which bills itself as "Protector of the World's Oceans" had targeted the Muscle Shoals plant as one of the nine most toxic chlorine producers in America because of the mercury cell production process used there.
It contends the mercury-cell process is 19th century technology and is a leading cause of mercury contamination in seafood.
Savitz said Oceana's goal has never been to see any of the chlorine plants that use the mercury cell process close. Instead, it was to see them switch to the mercury-free technology used by more than 90 percent of the chlorine industry, she said.
As part of their effort to call attention to the issue of mercury pollution in the Shoals, Oceana took hair samples from more than 75 residents to test for mercury contamination.
Savitz said Friday that Oceana only recently received results of the hair testing and has yet to compile them into a report. In looking over the results, Savitz did not notice anything alarming, she said.
Charles Rose, of Sheffield, president of the Shoals Environmental Alliance who helped organize the hair testing, said he also was pleased with Occidental's announcement that it is abandoning the mercury cell process in Muscle Shoals. "It's a step in the right direction."
We are still waiting to hear more details from the company as to their time frame for the shift, but we are all quite happy to see the number one mercury source in the state of Alabama, and the 19th biggest mercury air emitter in the United States, saying they'll clean up their act!