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Dealing with emissions and waste can cost businesses multiple millions

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its Toxic Release Inventory for 2016 and the raw numbers don't show a whole lot of difference over the past five years, but they show a significant decline over the past decade.

On-site stack emissions are by far the largest category among the 16 different companies that are included in the TRI for Floyd County. In 2006, the total on-site stack emissions of toxic materials added up to a total of 6,501,665 pounds. In 2016, that number had declined to 2,835,384 pounds, a decline of approximately 57 percent.

International Paper's massive plant in Coosa is the No. 1 emitter of what is considered toxic waste into the air, churning out more than 2.3 million pounds of emissions. The company also reported more than 332,000 pounds of land disposed toxic waste and another 61,000 pounds of water releases.

Emissions at the IP plant are down from 2.56 million pounds five years ago and the EPA report does not list any non-compliance issues related to air or water emissions during the preceding 12 calendar quarters.

“We operate our Rome mill subject to state and federal regulations designed to safeguard human health and the environment. We meet these regulations, and frequently go beyond regulatory requirements," said Brant Oberg, general manager of the International Paper plant. "We continually strive to reduce emissions through efficient operations and improving technology. In the past few years, our mill has spent more than $11 million to install new technology and environmental control equipment, designed to reduce emissions to levels substantially below regulatory requirements.”

Methanol is the primary component of the emission from the International Paper plant. More than 1.4 million pounds of methanol were released into the sky over western Floyd County from the IP operation in 2016. Manganese compounds were the secondary by-product of operations from the linerboard plant in 2016, with more than 244,000 pounds.

Georgia Power's Plant Hammond was No. 2 with 242,344 pounds of land-based waste and another 230,568 pounds going up into the air. Barium compounds and sulfuric acid are the leading toxic chemical compounds from Plant Hammond, with 180,000 pounds and 140,000 pounds respectively spewed into the air.

Emissions at Plant Hammond are way down as a result of both concerted efforts to reduce what's going up the stack as well as significantly reduced generation time at the plant.

“Georgia Power has a long history of reducing emissions from our power plants while still meeting the growing energy needs of the fastest-growing state in the United States," said company spokesman Craig Bell. "We have invested over $5 billion in environmental controls on our power plants like Hammond to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and other air pollutants." Bell said the company does not specify dollar figures on a plant-by-plant basis.

“Georgia Power is committed to providing our customers with reliable and affordable energy while also being good environmental stewards by preserving, protecting and enhancing the state we call home,” Bell said.

Georgia Power is in the midst of a major remediation of coal ash ponds, the primary land-based disposal system for materials that can fall into the toxic waste category.

Bell said the utility expects to spend approximately $2 billion to close all of the company’s 29 coal ash ponds at 11 coal-fired generation facilities across the state.

Ball was No. 3 with 181,374 pounds of air emissions, Georgia-Pacific was No. 4 with 34,840 pounds of aerial emissions and Profile Custom Extrusion was fifth with 19,300 pounds of aerial emission.

Bekaert dropped out of the top five on the toxic release list, but just barely, checking in at No. 6 on the list for 2016. Other companies with datasets included in the release by the EPA include US Biofuels, General Shale, Forterra Pipe, Peach State Labs and SI Storey Lumber.