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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new study ranks Pennsylvania as the second worst in the nation when it comes industrial pollution in our waterways.
Decades after passing the Clean Water Act, great strides have been made to clean up our rivers, but there are new concerns that we may be backsliding.
The environmental advocacy group, Penn Environment, is raising a red flag. They claim a company on the Monongahela River is one of the state’s worst polluters.
“Companies across the country are regularly exceeding their allowable pollution limits. Pennsylvania is no exception,” said Ashleigh Deemer, of Penn Environment.
In fact, Pennsylvania is second worst in the country, second only to Texas. The good news locally is that most of the pollution is in eastern Pennsylvania. The bad news is, the study says one of the worst polluters sits on the Mon in Elizabeth.
“Eastman Chemical is a number of miles up the Monongahela River. We know the Mon runs through the middle of Pittsburgh. Many people use it for boating, recreation, fishing,” says Deemer.
Eastman Chemical manufactures solvents and resins.
A 21-month review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s records shows Eastman exceeded the allowable discharge limits 72 times. Ten of those times they exceeded the limits by 500 percent or more.
The records show they’re dumping zinc, styrene – which is a known carcinogen – and xylene into the Mon.
“Things like zinc, that’s a heavy metal, that has profound impacts on human health. Xylene and styrene are not good either. We should really be concerned that these things are in our water,” said Deemer.
The increased pollution comes at a time when Congress and President Donald Trump are cutting regulations and reducing the EPA’s budget. For Eastman Chemical, the timing appears to be more than a coincidence.
“When they’re not fully considering the health of their neighbors and the health of everyone downstream, the many thousands who enjoy the Monongahela River, yes, they’re a bad neighbor,” said Deemer.
Eastman Chemical released this statement to KDKA in response to the report:
“Eastman is aware of a report published by PennEnvironment that states Eastman Chemical Resins, Inc.’s facility in Jefferson Hills Borough, among other companies across the state of Pennsylvania, is in violation of the Clean Water Act. The exceedances listed for this facility primarily result from zinc and aluminum in storm water runoff. Both of these metals are in the historic fill upon which the plant was built in 1949. With storm water runoff, these materials flow to the Monongahela River. These discharges are not related to Eastman’s manufacturing operation. Despite efforts to control these discharges, neither Eastman nor the DEP has identified a technology capable of removing these metals from the storm water in order to meet the DEP imposed limits. Eastman is in the process of working with DEP to address this situation. Fortunately, the metals’ levels in the storm water do not pose a threat to human health or the environment.”