By Tamara Dietrich, email@example.com
The Virginia Gazette
5:05 PM EDT, July 25, 2014
Three local communities have made the "15 Most Toxic ZIP Codes" in Virginia, a list compiled by the state chapter of the Sierra Club.
The conservation group ranks James City, York and Isle of Wight counties 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively, for air pollution emissions totaling nearly 1.3 million pounds in 2012.
Most of those emissions, the report says, came from the Ball Metal Beverage Container Corp. in Williamsburg, the Yorktown Power Station owned by Dominion Resources and the International Paper Franklin Mill.
The report should be "helpful for Virginians to know exactly what they're breathing and how their communities stack up against others in the state in terms of toxic air pollution," Kendyl Crawley Crawford of the Sierra Club said in a statement Wednesday.
The Southeast Community of Newport News didn't make the official list, but earned a "community spotlight" in the report for a combined 225,131 pounds of air pollution emissions in 2012, mostly from the Huntington Ingalls Inc. shipyard and the Mica Co. of Canada, which manufactures insulators and insulation products.
According to Erica Holloman, a project coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Southeast CARE project who works in the low-income community, that area — ZIP code 23607 — ranks as the 20th most toxic for total air releases, with asthma rates higher than the state average.
Holloman called the report a "great starting place" for conversations about health inequalities and exposure risks.
"Just because your community is not one of the 15 highlighted," Holloman said in a statement, "does not mean that air pollution issues do not exist."
The CARE project, for Community Action for a Renewed Environment, helps communities address pollution issues. It's part of the neighborhood-based Greater Southeast Development Corporation. Holloman is also a scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point.
According to the report, the chemicals emitted by the companies include hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, sulfuric acid, glycol ethers and methanol. All carry certain health risks with enough exposure — from gastritis to birth defects to neurological damage — and are reportable to the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory.
The public can access that database by going to the EPA's TRI website — www2.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program — and entering an address or ZIP code to find out which local companies are required to report, the type and amount of reportable pollutants and the company's compliance record.
The Sierra Club used the database to help compile its report.
Dietrich can be reached by phone at 757-247-7892.
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