ASHTABULA - The Ashtabula Community Advisory Panel (CAP) met on Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Ashtabula County District Library. CAP company representatives from ASHTA Chemical, Cristal, Gabriel Performance Products and Praxair were present, along with 21 community members who belong to many organizations in the Ashtabula area.
Company reports on safety, the environment, new business and permits were distributed. Cristal reported that its NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit is pending.
The topic for the meeting was “Why the variance requests by neighbor companies?”
The topic evolved from a discussion at the last CAP meeting where members of the community that attended the OEPA hearing in November regarding the Cristal Mercury variance request sought more information. The CAP companies chose the topic for the meeting to explain that the companies are not asking to change anything and that the EPA has changed the rules based on new regulations.
None of the companies are asking to do anything different. No one is asking to release anything changed from what is being released now. No one is asking to add anything or to discharge more and all of the CAP companies are in compliance. They have been in compliance and intend to stay in compliance.
The OEPA is adding new requirements to the permits that each company has obtained to release water to the lake. It includes basic rainwater runoff.
It includes water taken from the lake used for cooling and returning to the lake untouched by company processes.
The companies shared that they have to request a variance because the permit is issued with a desired amount of material in the released waters, not the achievable amount. The desired amount may be less than is already in the rainwater when it falls. It may be less than the water has in it when it is drawn from the lake. The permit will not let the companies return untouched water back to the lake. So, the company has to request a variance.
There was a presentation about where Mercury comes from. It is a naturally occurring rare element found in the earth’s crust. It is a metal found more abundant than gold and about as abundant as silver.
Mercury is naturally released to the atmosphere through volcanic eruptions, forest and grass fires and oceanic releases. Human activity releases come from small scale mining, fossil fuel combustion, metals production, cement manufacturing, gold mines and dental fillings. Compact fluorescent lights simple furnace thermostats and old thermometers all contain mercury.
Typical samples of Lake Erie water contain 8-9 ppt (parts per trillion) of mercury. Rainwater runoff has been measured locally to have levels between 3 ppt and 12 ppt. Local companies are requesting to allow the water to return to the Lake at 8.5 ppt. The NPDES permit renewal application was explained as a very involved process. The CAP companies are working with the OEPA in a transparent way to establish reasonable and achievable new safe discharge limits.
The Safety Off the Job presentation was Safety During Flooding.
The next CAP meeting is March 8. For more information regarding the
Ashtabula CAP, contact Marta Stone at The Growth Partnership for
Ashtabula County, Inc., 576-9126.
CAP Mission Statement
The CAP is a partnership between companies and their neighbors to positively impact the health, safety, environmental and security concerns of the community. Through education and open communication, the panel promotes trust and commitment in addressing issues of common interest.