Oceana released a new research paper - No Excuses: Communities at Risk Without Mercury-Free Technology - today that details the economic threat posed to the local community by Olin's decision to remain wedded to century-old mercury technolgy at its plant in Charleston, Tenn. Olin's plant is among the four outdated chlorine plants - or Foul Four as the paper labels them - that have refused to modernize their production techniques thus far.
"The bottom line is that Olin is likely to close its doors in the next four to seven years if it doesn't modernize to mercury-free technology," said Suzanne Wisdom, Oceana Field Organizer. "If Olin keeps using mercury in its chlorine production, an estimated 280 local jobs are at stake. Olin should invest in our community and stay for the long haul."
Simply switching to mercury-free technology - already used to produce 95 percent of the chlorine in the United States - would increase the plant's longevity, protecting local jobs and public health. Instead, these four plants have continued with short-sighted practices that led to the release of more than one ton of mercury into the environment in 2006.
In No Excuses, Oceana shows that of the mercury-based chlorine plants that have not converted to newer processes, most closed prior to reaching 50 years in operation. In fact, every chlorine plant conversion to mercury-free technology in recent U.S. history has been carried out at plants under the age of 42. This suggests that if the Foul Four continue refusing to switch to mercury-free technology, they will likely close within four to seven years.
The driving forces threatening the survival of the Olin plant include:
"The Foul Four should stop making excuses and start making real commitments to their communities." said Simon Mahan, Campaign Manager at Oceana. "Switching to mercury-free technology is not only good for the environment, but for the local citizens and economy."
The Foul Four are Olin Corporation's plants in Charleston, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga., PPG Industries' plant in Natrium, W.Va. and Ashta Chemicals in Ashtabula, Ohio. Oceana has repeatedly called on the plants to switch to mercury-free technology as part of an ongoing campaign launched in 2005. The plants' continued refusal to switch to mercury-free technology threatens local jobs and should be of concern to communities and shareholders alike.
About Mercury-cell Chlorine Production
Chlorine is a chemical building-block used in everything from swimming pools to plastic tents and even paper towels. Mercury-cell chlorine plants produce chlorine by pumping a saltwater solution through a vat of electrified mercury, or a mercury-cell, which catalyzes an electrolytic chemical reaction. Through this process, mercury pollution is released into the air and waterways and tons of mercury waste are generated and disposed of.
About Mercury Contamination
Most human mercury exposure results from eating contaminated seafood. Mercury is primarily a neurotoxin, which means once in the body it attacks the central nervous system. It can cause serious health problems, especially in children, with very high exposure levels leading to brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures and speech problems. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist has estimated that one in ten women of child-bearing age has enough mercury in her blood to pose serious neurological risks to her developing child. In the United States, the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration have cautioned women of childbearing age and children to avoid certain types of seafood due to the risk of mercury poisoning. Governments around the world also have issued similar warnings. All four states where mercury-cell chlorine plants operate have issued fish consumption advisories because of high mercury levels found in their rivers and lakes.
For more information about mercury pollution or Oceana's campaign to stop seafood contamination,please visit www.oceana.org/mercury.