Tooele County continues to be second only to Salt Lake County in the state of Utah for emitting the most industrial pollution.
In 2011, the amount of toxic releases Tooele County companies emitted rose 12 percent, according to data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency. That is a slight increase compared to the 44 percent increase between 2009 and 2010.
The data was released to the public this month, but will not be published in the 2011 Toxics Release Inventory report until January. According to the EPA, the data contains information on chemicals and chemical categories industrial facilities manage through disposal or other releases, recycling, energy recovery or treatment.
Three of Tooele County’s heavy industries were listed among the top five polluters in the state. US Magnesium sits at No. 3, which is the same place it was at in 2010; Clean Harbors’ Grassy Mountain facility sits at No. 4, which is two spots higher than the previous year; and EnergySolutions sits at No. 5, one place lower than the previous year.
In 2011, those three companies released toxins into the land, air and water totaling 13.9 million pounds — up 1.5 million pounds from 2010.
Salt Lake County is home to Kennecott Utah Copper, which still holds the top two spots on the toxic release report for Utah. Kennecott’s mine concentrators and power plant at the south end of the Salt Lake Valley released 145.3 million pounds of toxins last year — down 10 percent from 2010 — while its smelter and refinery just east of the Tooele County line released 23.4 million pounds. The amount released by the smelter did not change from 2010 to 2011.
Kyle Bennett, spokesperson for Kennecott, said the decline is not an ongoing trend. It’s actually attributable to chemical concentrations naturally changing from year to year in the trace amounts of materials, such as lead, that are mined as overburden, or mine waste. If the concentrations decrease, then the amount of releases decreases as well.
“We move 500,000 tons of material a day,” Bennett said. “We were likely mining in an area where the [lead and other materials] were less concentrated. The trace amounts are different at various points of the mine.”
Of the total toxins released statewide in 2011, 86 percent came from these two Kennecott facilities.
Toxic releases from US Magnesium increased from 5.5 million pounds in 2010 to 8.6 million pounds in 2011.
Tom Tripp, technical services manager at US Magnesium, said the main reason for the increase was maintenance work done on one of the facility’s chlorine reduction burners.
“We had approximately six weeks where we didn’t have that control equipment up,” Tripp said. “That’s only happened twice since 1990. It happens infrequently and it was a major rebuild of a major piece of equipment.”
Tripp said a secondary factor behind the spike in toxic releases was a 13.7 percent increase in production from 2010 to 2011.
US Magnesium’s increased toxic releases are only a fraction of the roughly 58 million pounds of releases the company had in 1998 before it modernized its emissions systems.
Clean Harbors’ Grassy Mountain facility released 2.7 million pounds of toxins in 2011, which was down from the 3.2 million released in 2010. Releases from the Clean Harbors’ Aragonite facility ranked at No. 10 in the state with 1.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals released in 2011, up slightly from the 1.1 million pounds released in 2010.
EnergySolutions’ toxic releases decreased from 3.7 million pounds in 2010 to 2.4 million pounds in 2011. Mark Walker, spokesperson for EnergySolutions, said it’s important for the community to understand that any toxic releases from EnergySolutions are contained in the facility. He said the reason the amount decreased from 2010 to 2011 is because less waste was disposed of in 2011 than in 2010.
Allegheny Technologies in Rowley sits at No. 85 on the list. The facility only released 940 pounds of toxic releases in 2011.
Jim Denham, spokesperson for Allegheny Technologies, said the reason the large scale metals manufacturing company releases such a small amount of toxins is because most of the chemical processes take place before the metals gets to the facility in Rowley.
“However, we do take a lot of care in making sure our environmental impacts are kept to a minimum,” Denham said.
Other facilities in Tooele County listed in the report include the Tooele Army Depot, Dugway Proving Ground, Cargill Salt and Hunter Panels. More information about the Toxics Release Inventory report can be found at www.epa.gov/tri.