Chlorine emissions from the Magnesium Corporation of America (MagCorp) plant on the western shore of the Great Salt Lake are going down, but the Environmental Protection Agency still lists it among largest emitters of toxic chemicals in the United States.
MagCorp contends the emissions are not a danger to the public.Figures released Wednesday indicate the magnesium plant released about 50 million pounds of chlorine into the air in 1994 - the most recent year for which data are available. This is a 25 percent reduction from 1993, and far below the peak chlorine level of 110.1 million pounds in 1989.
"In spite of the fact that there never once has been any evidence of our chlorine emissions causing harm to anyone or anything, we've had these reductions and continue to make reductions," said MagCorp spokesman Lee Brown.
He said part of the decline was due to an 8.5 percent drop in production in 1994 compared with 1993, but said most of the change came from improvements in the plant's emission-control system.
Scott Endicott, spokesman for a coalition of activists monitoring MagCorp, said he was pleased to see the lower chlorine numbers but still is worried about the effect the chemical could have.
He contends most of the chlorine released into the air becomes hydrochloric acid, which might be damaging high-mountain lakes and causing stinging skin that sometimes is reported by residents of Grantsville - the town closest to MagCorp.
It also is possible that dangerous dioxins and closely related chemical compounds are being released from the plant, said Endicott.
MagCorp was the nation's largest emitter of toxic chemicals to the land, air and surface water in 1994, according to figures compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency. It dropped to third place on a list that includes companies that also use underground injection to dispose of some of their wastes, falling behind two plants owned by E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. in Missouri and Tennessee.
Kennecott, Utah's second-largest emitter of toxic chemicals, also reported a significant reduction. Its 1994 total was 9.6 million pounds, down from 11.7 million pounds in 1993.
Fred Fox, Kennecott director of environmental-resource management, said the reduction came from a new process that allows the company to recycle flue dust captured in the air-pollution-control system.
Reductions at MagCorp and Kennecott helped drop Utah into 12th place nationally in the amount of toxic chemicals released in 1994. The state was ranked ninth in 1993.