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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Raquel Guillory, 410-576-6357
rguillory@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Announces Settlement with PPG Industries
Settlement is Significant Step in Ending West Virginia Company’s Mercury Pollution in Western Maryland

BALTIMORE, MD ( August 11, 2009) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced that the State of Maryland has entered into a settlement agreement with PPG Industries, Inc. (PPG) to reduce toxic mercury emissions at its Natrium, West Virginia facility. PPG has also stated as part of the agreement that it supports the goal of replacing its existing mercury-based production process at the Natrium facility with mercury-free technology.

For decades, mercury released by the Pittsburgh-based company’s plant in West Virginia has polluted Maryland’s air and water as a result of its production of chlorine and other chlor-alkali chemicals. The agreement announced today requires the company to reduce mercury emissions to no more than 150 pounds per year by 2011 and no more than 145 pounds per year by 2013 - an 87.5% reduction from 2004 emission levels. Existing regulations set no limit for mercury emissions by chlor-alkali plants. If PPG exceeds the emissions limits set forth in the agreement, the company will face penalties of up to $240,000 per year.

“As we develop new strategies and increase enforcement efforts to clean up Maryland’s air and water, we must look at pollution sources emanating outside the State,” said Attorney Gansler. “Today’s agreement includes strict penalties, regular monitoring, and a commitment from PPG to decommission the mercury-based technology.”

“Every single action we take to reduce mercury, both large reductions and smaller reductions, is a positive step that improves both public health and our environment,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson.

PPG’s Natrium facility sits on the Ohio River, approximately 72 miles west of the West Virginia/Maryland border. A portion of the Natrium facility, which was built in 1957, uses an outdated, mercury-based production process that remains in use at only four of the 119 chlorine plants in the United States. The mercury-based process is being eliminated in many countries and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned construction of new plants that use the process.

In addition to discharging mercury into the Ohio River at the plant, the Natrium facility emits airborne mercury that is carried by prevailing winds into Maryland and is deposited onto the land and into the waters of Maryland, particularly in western Maryland. In 2005, the EPA reported that although the Natrium facility was the second smallest chlor-alkali plant in the United States in terms of production, it was the second largest in terms of mercury air emissions. From October 2005 to March 2006, the EPA identified the Natrium facility as a “high priority violator” under the Clean Air Act. PPG has taken steps to reduce mercury emissions from the plant, and its agreement with Maryland requires PPG to continue environmental improvements while the mercury-based process remains in use.

Mercury is a hazardous neurotoxin that accumulates in the environment and particularly in aquatic wildlife. According to EPA data on mercury deposition, Maryland ranks among the states most severely affected by concentrated mercury. As a result of mercury deposition in Maryland, waters throughout Maryland are designated as impaired because of mercury concentrations in fish tissue. The problem is particularly acute in western Maryland, where virtually every freshwater lake or impoundment is impaired. Mercury concentrations in fish tissue in Deep Creek Lake, Savage River Reservoir, and Big Piney Reservoir average almost double safe concentrations.

   

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