Archived Story

Wilsonville plant on list of worst mercury polluters

Published 2:15pm Thursday, January 3, 2013

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

WILSONVILLE – A Wilsonville plant is the source of the second-highest power plant mercury emissions in the country, according to the Environmental Integrity Project.

Southern Company Gaston Steam Plant, which is a coal-burning power plant, produced 1,244 pounds of mercury emissions in 2011, according to a press release from EIP.

The EIP uses reports from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory to identify the 10 largest sources of power plant mercury emissions.

The top 10 facilities account for about 18 percent of mercury emissions from all coal burning power plants nationwide in 2011, the release stated. While mercury emissions dropped by at least 20 percent in three of the plants compared to 2010, emissions from the other seven plants, including the Wilsonville plant, increased or showed little change.

According to Alabama Power, the company installed selective catalytic reduction technology and a scrubber in the Wilsonville plant’s largest unit to reduce mercury emissions by nearly 80 percent since 2007.

“From 2007 through 2011, we’ve reduced mercury emissions across Alabama Power by more than 40 percent. During the same period, we’ve reduced all air releases as reported in the Toxic Release Inventory by 62 percent,” according to an email from Michael Sznajderman, Alabama Power media relations coordinator.

Alabama Power also has begun construction on the plant’s four smaller units so they will operate on natural gas, “which typically contains almost no mercury,” Sznajderman’s email stated. The project is expected to be completed in 2015. The company will also install a “baghouse,” or an air pollution control device, on the largest unit that will be completed in 2016.

Five of the plants are located in Texas, while the four other than the Wilsonville plant are in North Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

“Coal-burning power plants release millions of pounds of toxic pollutants into the air every year, including mercury and carcinogens like arsenic and chromium,” the release stated. “Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, especially harmful to developing fetuses and young children.”

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws. To view the complete report, visit Environmentalintegrity.org.

For Alabama Power’s complete response to the EIP press release, visit Alpwr.co/eip1.

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