Though West Point’s paper mill cracked the top 10 largest emitters of toxic materials in the state in 2017, the mill emitted fewer pounds of chemicals into the environment compared to the previous year.
The paper mill released 852,914 pounds of toxic materials at its location in 2017. That figure places the mill as the ninth largest emitter of toxic materials in Virginia that year, according to a recently released report by the Department of Environmental Quality.
The paper mill cracked the state’s top 10 highest toxic emitters the previous year too, likewise coming in ninth place in on-site emissions.
The Toxic Release Inventory report says the mill released 16 different compounds into the environment. The majority of those releases were through the air (748,843 pounds), while a smaller share was released into the water (104,071 pounds).
The top three most common chemicals released were:
- Menthol (478,359 pounds)
- Ammonia (112,856 pounds)
- Hydrochloric acid (57,605 pounds)
The emissions are a decrease compared to the mill’s emissions in 2016, which totaled 917,732 pounds, according to the DEQ’s 2016 report.
“The overall decrease in air emissions at WestRock’s West Point mill reflects a number of strategic decisions and investments made over the past several years, including the addition of new technology at this location,” WestRock spokesman John Pensec said in an email. Pensec didn’t elaborate on what those strategic decisions and investments are.
Pensec said the total air emissions reported by the mill as part of the Toxic Release Inventory have decreased more than 35 percent since 2009.
“Our team at WestRock is dedicated to the responsible stewardship of natural resources, conscientious management of our global manufacturing facilities and full compliance with all laws and regulations,” he said.
The DEQ report found there were 899.96 million pounds of chemicals managed, transferred or released to the environment by industries in Virginia in 2017, which is a 1-percent decrease compared to the previous year.
The 2017 numbers are the latest in a downward trend in emissions for more than a decade. From 2004 to 2017, the amount of chemicals released declined by about 51 percent. Information on 2018 emissions will be submitted to the DEQ later this year and be available publicly in early 2020, according to a news release announcing the report’s publication in late March.
“This significant downward trend reflects Virginia’s continuing efforts to eliminate or reduce pollution at the source of generation. This positive trend is an encouraging sign that all sectors of Virginia’s government, business, industry and citizens are adopting pollution prevention measures as part of everyday activities,” DEQ Director David Paylor said in the release.
Releases are controlled by various air, water and waste permits. By the numbers, emissions shook out like this across Virginia in 2017 compared to 2016:
- 16.5 million pounds released into the air (13 percent decrease).
- 11.29 million pounds released into water (17 percent decrease).
- 2.71 million pounds released to land (16 percent decrease)
- 245,500 pounds of persistent bio-accumulative toxins released (0.51 percent decrease)
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, email@example.com, @jajacobs_