More toxic chemicals released in state in '11

Facilities topping list not in Merced County, but some in San Joaquin Valley

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 21, 2013 

Toxic chemicals released into the environment from facilities in California increased in 2011 compared with 2010, a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows.

During 2011, 1,265 facilities in the state reported 38 million pounds of toxic chemical releases.

The state's total reported on-site and off-site releases increased 10 percent, or 3 million pounds, compared with 2010 data, according to the report.

None of the top 10 facilities with the largest chemical releases on site and off site are in Merced County. However, some of them are in the San Joaquin Valley, such as in Kern and Kings counties.

Jaime Holt, chief communications officer for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said officials with the agency have just begun to do an analysis of the report.

Holt said they are trying to determine what impacts there might be on the valley, and what steps -- if any -- the agency can take to help improve the situation.

District officials might have more information after they finish analyzing the report sometime next week, Holt said.

Ron Rowe, director of environmental health for Merced County, said that while none of the major facilities described in the report are in the county, dissemination of the information remains important.

He said his agency recognizes the community's right to know data submitted to the EPA that helps everyone remain aware of the types and amounts of chemicals used near neighborhoods.

County officials make an effort to prevent pollution at every level, Rowe said.

His division oversees a program that monitors every county facility that has reportable limits of liquids, solids and compressed gas. Those 35 facilities must participate in the program.

"Because of our knowledge of the compounds that are stored and used in our community facilities, our ability to control releases is greatly enhanced," he said.

The statewide report found that releases of toxic chemicals into the air have decreased 13 percent since 2010. Releases into water increased 10 percent, while on-site land releases increased 9 percent and underground injection releases decreased 67 percent since 2010.

The top 10 chemicals based on total on-site and off-site releases in the state included copper and copper compounds, nitrate compounds, lead and lead compounds, asbestos, ammonia, methyl tert-butyl ether, styrene, zinc and zinc compounds, n-hexane and toluene, the report shows.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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