Sustained Outrage

Wishful thinking: PPG not going mercury free

While I was down in Beckley earlier this week, some potential news came in concerning the PPG Industries plant up in Natrium, W.Va.  The website “Marketwatch” was reporting:

As part of our North American Project Database, Industrial Info is tracking about $200 million in PPG spending on active projects in the U.S., including the $100 million conversion of a mercury cell chlorine plant in New Martinsville, West Virginia.

This was potentially huge news, given the long campaign by state and national environmental groups to convince (or force) PPG to eliminate the huge mercury emissions from its chlor-alkali facility (see previous coverage here, here and here).

In fact, the group Oceana sent us this statement about this potential development:

“PPG’s intention to convert its New Martinsville plant to mercury-free technology is long-overdue, very welcome news. PPG’s plant on the Ohio River has needlessly fouled the air and water of West Virginia and neighboring states with mercury pollution for the past 54 years,” said Oceana senior campaign director Jackie Savitz. “We sincerely hope that PPG Industries does convert the plan to modern technology, and that the company also keeps its recovered mercury out of the global environment,” she added.

Oceana has campaigned since 2005 to end mercury use in the production of chlorine and caustic soda in the United States. Only nine U.S. chlorine plants used the outdated technology in 2005. If PPG does convert its New Martinsville mercury cell chlorine plant to cleaner technology, there will be only one U.S. plant, operated by Ashta Chemicals of Ashtabula, OH, that has failed to convert its chlor-alkali plant to cleaner technology.

Well, I checked with PPG spokesman Jeremy Neuhart and here’s what he said:

Yes, we saw the announcement from Industrial Info that references a “$100 million conversion of a mercury cell chlorine plant in New Martinsville, West Virginia.”

This information is inaccurate.

PPG has made no announcements to this effect, and we have no current plans to make such a conversion at the PPG Natrium plant near New Martinsville.

Keep in mind, though, that PGG has pledged — as part of a court settlement with the state of Maryland (not West Virginia) to reduce its mercury emissions and to consider even more reductions in the future … so stay tuned …