The Magnesium Corp. of America has installed air pollution control equipment expected to slash chlorine emissions by 40 percent at its plant in western Utah's Tooele County.
The magnesium plant at Rowley was the nation's leading source of toxic air pollutants in 1988, the last period for which national figures are available. Magcorp poured approximately 51,000 tons of chlorine into the atmosphere, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said.Magcorp Vice President Lee R. Brown said a chlorine reduction burner was installed June 14 on one of the plant's stacks. When fully operational, the burner will reduce the plant's chlorine emissions by 40 percent.
"We're still addressing a couple of problems" with the burner, Brown said Monday. "We've had two breakdowns since June 15, but we're close to resolving those problems."
Over the past two years, Magcorp estimates it has spent $2.5 million on pollution control equipment at the plant.
The chlorine burner was installed three months later than promised in an agreement between Magcorp and the Utah Bureau of Air Quality - a delay that resulted in payment of a $14,000 penalty to the state.
Bureau Director Burnell Cordner said the company still could face a $7,000 per day penalty for each day after June 15 that the chlorine burner is not working properly. There's an exemption for unexpected mechanical problems, however.
"If we felt they should have known or were negligent, we would seek a penalty. If there were acting in good faith, perhaps not," he said.
Brown said that Magcorp crews are working overtime and weekends to make the chlorine burner operational as soon as possible. "I think that's a sign of our good faith," he said.
While boasting of Magcorp's efforts to reduce pollution, Brown emphasized that there is "no evidence of environmental deterioration" caused by chlorine emissions from the plant and "no measurable threat to human health."
Magcorp extracts magnesium chloride salt from the Great Salt Lake and splits it into magnesium metal and chlorine gas. Some of the chlorine is captured and sold for other uses, but much escapes into the atmosphere.