Nucor tops EPA toxic release list

Nucor Tops EPA Toxic Release List
Journal Review (3/27/07)
By Bill Dotson

Nucor Steel tops a list of state industrial facilities on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2005 Toxic Release Inventory, but company officials say that doesn’t mark them as polluters.

Nucor officials said Monday that ranking has been the case for several years, due to a change in the reporting guidelines enacted in the late 1990s.

Toxic release includes not only that which is released into the air or water but also solid waste transported off-site to be properly disposed of at licensed landfills, said Dave Sulc, Nucor Environmental Manager.
“Years ago, when they didn’t include the stuff sent to landfills, we weren’t even on the list,” he said.

The TRI shows Nucor’s waste material to be in excess of 25 million pounds, but Sulc said 99.9 percent of it consists of material that is “properly captured and landfilled.”

“Only about .1 percent of that total is released into the air or water,” said Nucor General Manager Ron Dickerson.
“We’re not disputing the numbers, but it’s a matter of looking what they really mean,” Sulc said.

Dickerson said the numbers are affected by the fact that when Nucor brings in scrap steel, materials such as zinc or lead, which are classified as hazardous, are already present on that metal.

What the report doesn’t mention is that Nucor Steel is also the largest recycler in the nation, he said.
“We’ve recycled over two million tons of scrap metal. Our environmental statement says we’re a giant recycling facility,” he said.

Sulc said it’s also important to note that from 2003 to 2004, Nucor’s toxic releases were down 17 percent, and then, from 2004 to 2005, down 24 percent.

“So we’re going in the right direction,” he said.
Dickerson and Sulc both attribute the trend to state-of-the-art pollution control equipment that is checked on a daily basis.

“We do continuous emissions monitoring,” Sulc said.

According to the EPA news release, this year's TRI data shows that overall, progress is being made in reducing releases of several chemicals of special concern. For example, between 2004 and 2005 dioxin releases decreased by 23 percent and mercury releases fell by nine percent. In addition, several individual industries have made significant progress in reducing releases. Petroleum refining releases dropped 10 percent, transportation equipment registered a six percent decrease and chemical manufacturing cut releases by four percent.
Review of the last five years of data shows chemical releases reported to TRI have decreased by 22 percent nationally. The 2005 data shows a three percent increase overall in total disposal and other releases.

Annual changes are not unusual, the EPA said. A number of possible reasons for the increase include: production increases, fluctuations in the content of raw materials used in particular industries or changes in releases at large facilities, which has an impact on the national data.

TRI tracks the chemicals and industrial sectors specified by the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 and its amendments. The Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) of 1990 also mandates that TRI reports must include data on toxic chemicals treated on-site, recycled, and burned for energy recovery. Together, these laws require facilities in certain industries to report annually on releases, disposal and other waste management activities related to these chemicals.
Dickerson said Nucor is proud of its efforts to protect the environment.

“We live here, too. We’ve got children and grandchildren here and we plan on being here for a long time,” he said.