The Olin Corporation announced today it will convert its mercury-based chlor-alkali manufacturing plant in Charleston, TN to modern, mercury free technology and eliminate mercury from its plant operation in Augusta, GA. Oceana has been pushing for these actions since 2005. Olin’s plant in Tennessee is the largest remaining mercury-based chlorine plant of the four plants in the U.S. that had refused to make the switch to safer, more efficient technology.
In response, Oceana offers the following statement from Senior Campaign Director Jacqueline Savitz:
“This toxic, unnecessary practice was putting communities’ health at risk, and contaminating fish that could end up on dinner plates far from the plants themselves. Olin’s Tennessee plant was the largest and released the most pollutants of the remaining mercury-based chlorine plants. This shift will mean less mercury in the Hiwassee River, as well as in Charleston and the state of Tennessee,” added Savitz.
Olin’s Georgia plant was a classic dinosaur, and it was clear the company would not be able to continue to operate the plant without modernizing it. Olin’s reluctance to do so was a sign that the company was not planning to continue operating the plant into the future. We are disappointed that Olin has chosen not to continue chlorine production by converting its Georgia plant, as it is doing in Tennessee. However, the changes in Georgia will benefit the residents of Augusta and surrounding areas by reducing mercury releases that contaminate fish and threaten the health of those who fish in the area.
Olin’s announcement shows that even a large facility can shift to mercury-free technology in the time frame described in pending Senate legislation, which would require plants to shift to mercury-free production by 2015. Olin will easily meet that timeframe, committing to shift to cleaner production technology by 2012 in Charleston, TN. For that decision, we applaud them.
Finally, we are grateful that the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will help to make the Tennessee conversion possible.
Oceana Tennessee Field Organizer Suzanne Wisdom, who has worked long and hard to exert community pressure on Olin to switch, offers the following reaction:
“I am excited to hear that Olin’s plant will ‘Go Mercury Free,’ just as Oceana and thousands of Tennessee residents have urged them to do. I’m especially happy for the wonderful community of people who live near the plant. They have been the heart of this campaign and I know they are celebrating today,” said Wisdom.
Oceana Georgia Field Organizer Margie McClain, who has worked with the Augusta community to stop mercury releases from the Olin plant, offers the following reaction:
“Phasing out the use of mercury is not only a victory for the Augusta community but also for the environment. It will help support the health of the Savannah River, which is important to local residents who enjoy fishing and other recreational uses of the river.”
Oceana’s team of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America, Europe, South and Central America. For more information, visit www.oceana.org/mercury and http://na.oceana.org/en/our-work/stop-ocean-pollution/mercury/learn-act/the-mercury-pollution-reduction-act