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The Air I Breath {Regional Rats}: 2008 TRI Data (9th of 3140 counties)

The economic downturn has some benefits for fence-line industrial communities.

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It is becoming clear that Gitte Laasby is one of the most important journalist in Northwest Indiana. Here again she writes on a subject I am acutely sensitive towards.

via [ Post-Tribune ] “Lake County pollution bad despite reduction” By Gitte Laasby

New toxic release data from EPA shows Lake County industries released the ninth-most pollution in the nation in 2008 — more than 31.5 million pounds.

The high ranking, released Monday, comes despite a 31.1 percent reduction in releases from Lake County industrial plants compared to 2007.

The data, self-reported by the industries to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, also shows that two Lake County steel mills are among the nation’s 50 biggest polluters.

U.S. Steel Gary Works is No. 37 with about 12.6 million pounds. ArcelorMittal in East Chicago is No. 46 despite cutting its releases by more than half, from about 25.8 million pounds in 2007 to 11 million pounds in 2008.

By comparison, BP Whiting increased its releases 33.8 percent from nearly 529,000 pounds in 2007 to nearly 708,000 pounds in 2008.

Among the 650 chemicals included in the data are carcinogens and other toxic material that cause adverse health effects and potential environmental harm.

Not all toxic releases are harmful or bad. The numbers include toxic material emitted into the air, discharged into water and disposed of in underground injection wells, but also materials that are landfilled or recycled.

A Post-Tribune analysis of preliminary TRI data published in September concluded that Northwest Indiana industries had reduced their overall pollution by about 30 percent. The most significant reductions were at area steel mills.

At the time, Branch Chief of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Pollution Prevention Jennifer Schick said the reductions were likely a result of production cuts rather than regulatory requirements or voluntary reductions.

On Tuesday, IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock stopped short of drawing such a conclusion.

“Because an analysis has not been done for the 2008 data for Northwest Indiana, in particular, it would be speculation on our part to attribute reductions to the economic downturn,” Hartsock said. “What we do know based on information available to us for the state is that industry is doing a better job reducing pollutants than what the decrease in economic activity would account for.”

Lake County polluters reduced their releases by 31.1 percent compared to 2007, Porter County polluters by 5.8 percent. Lake and Porter counties released 36.9 million pounds of toxics — 17.6 percent of the total 209.3 million pounds released by Indiana facilities.

Four of the 20 counties in the nation that released the most toxic material were in Indiana, according to EPA.

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