Steam plant listed as 4th worst polluter in state

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Alabama Environmental Council released Tuesday its first “Dirty Dozen” list of companies in the state. Alabama Power’s Greene County Steam Plant and the now bankrupt Lawter International/Eastman Resins in Moundville were named to the list.

For the last four months, council staff reviewed noncompliance data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as files from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

Each of the 12 offenders on the list are listed by EPA as being in violation of the law over the past two years and each company on the list is a “major source discharger” that the council says releases more pollution in the air and water than allowed by their permits.

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“These facilities have the means available to operate within the guidelines of the law, but instead, they discharge excessive amounts of pollution into Alabama’s air and water,” said Jayme Hill, executive director of the Alabama Environmental Council.

The Greene County Steam Plant is cited as violating its “particulate matter permit limit” on a regular basis, the council report said. “EPA data shows two years of nonstop violations of the Clean Air Act with no formal enforcement. Reports show failure to comply with modern clean air requirements.”

Currents violations by the Greene County plant involve Nitrogen Oxide and Sulfur Dioxide, which can have adverse effects on human health and the environment, the council report states.

Lawter International/Eastman Resins in Moundville is now closed. The plant made special resins to improve paint adhesion on metal.

The council charges that for two years there were nonstop violations of the Clean Air Act. Although the plant is closed, hazardous materials, oil and grease, sediment and other pollution still on site are discharged by rain showers into the Black Warrior River.

The company is still in business in other parts of the nation, Hill said, and they should be made to clean up the Moundville site. “They left a big mess when they left the state.”

Founded in 1967, the Alabama Environmental Council is a nonprofit organization with a statewide membership of 1,000, an executive director and board of directors. “We’re the state’s oldest environmental advocacy organization,” she said. Its main office is in Birmingham, but it has a chapter in Tuscaloosa.

The council has three goals in releasing the Dirty Dozen list. “The first is to show that ADEM’s enforcement is lax,” Hill said. “Some of these companies have been in violation for more than two years. There are no enforcement actions that have insured compliance.

“The second goal was to embarrass non compliant companies into compliance. These industries are breaking the law, and they should be held responsible.

“The third goal is to point out that their inconsistencies with the publicly available data,” she said. Citizens should have the means to figure out what is going on in their community, she said. The supporting data between EPA and ADEM is not consistent.

For example, the Alabama Power-owned companies are not listed in the state reports as being non compliant. “Yet EPA shows them in significant non compliance.”

There are even conflicts within the EPA’s own database.

There is a need for “publicly digestible information,” Hill said. Much of the regulatory environmental data is hard to understand. “The public has the right to know who’s violating pollution permits in their community and who’s been allowed to get away with polluting beyond the regulation of the law.

She expects ADEM officials to say, “they’re doing an adequate job enforcing the law. In fact, enforcement actions lack teeth… Pollution is occurring on a daily basis when it should be stopped.”

“…We’re not trying to put anybody on trial here,” Hill said. “…Our intent is to have a clean Alabama and companies here that provide jobs, provide for the economic stability of our state, but they should not be allowed to flagrantly break the law.”