February 10

Skowhegan, Jay mills named among Maine’s biggest polluters in federal report

Of the 10 companies that produced the highest amounts of toxic emissions in 2012, nine are associated with the pulp and paper industry, including Sappi Fine Paper and Verso Paper Holdings.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The federal government’s latest list of the biggest polluters in Maine includes a handful of the state’s largest paper mills, including two in central Maine.

List of toxins, emitters

The biggest toxic materials emitters in the state, ranked by the number of pounds emitted in 2012, according to a list released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

1. Rumford Paper Co., Rumford: 3,064,768

2. McCain Foods USA Inc., Easton: 2,245,259

3. S.D. Warren Co., Skowhegan: 2,047,242

4. Verso Paper Holdings, LLC., Jay: 1,624,513

5. Woodland Pulp LLC, Baileyville: 1,136,512

6. Red Shield Acquisition LLC, Old Town: 448,897

7. Great Northern Paper LLC, East Millinocket: 366,177

8. Lincoln Paper & Tissue LLC, Lincoln: 359,638

9. S.D. Warren Co., Westbrook: 257,574

10. Verso Paper Bucksport Mille, Bucksport: 138,986

 

The 10 most emitted toxic substances in Maine in 2012, ranked by number of pounds.

 

1. Zinc compounds: 3,094,159

2. Nitrate compounds: 2,522,583

3. Methanol: 2,027,943

4. Manganese compounds: 1,388,386

5. Ammonia: 907,956

6. Hydrogen Sulfide: 587,789

7. Hydrochloric acid (1995 and after “acid aerosols” only): 381,395

8. Acetaldehyde: 183,936

9. Barium compounds: 128,459

10. Chromium compounds: 94,094

Collectively, 88 industrial sites in Maine produced 11.5 million pounds of pollutants in 2012, an increase of more than a half-million pounds over 2011, according to a toxic chemical report released by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday.

While Maine’s emissions went up, the amount of emissions for the Northeast as a whole went down, by 2.55 percent, according to the report.

Nine of the 10 biggest polluters on the list were associated with the state’s pulp and paper industry. The top polluter on the list was Rumford Paper Co., which released more than 3 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the environment in 2012. The second on the list, with more than 2.2 million pounds of emissions, was McCain Foods, a potato processing company that operates a plant in Easton.

In central Maine, S.D. Warren Co., of Skowhegan, which does business as Sappi Fine Paper, was third on the list, with more than 2 million pounds of toxic chemicals emitted. In 2011, the company was ranked fourth. The company’s Westbrook operation also made the list as the state’s eighth-largest polluter, with about 257,000 pounds of emissions.

Verso Paper Holdings, of Jay, was the fourth-largest polluter in the state, with about 1.6 million pounds of toxic emissions. In 2011, the company was ranked third. Verso’s Bucksport mill also made the list, in tenth place, with about 139,000 pounds of toxic emissions.

State environmental leaders said they are concerned about the increase and urged tougher restrictions on polluters, while industry leaders said the increase is likely a sign that the amount of paper produced increased in 2012, as the state continues to rebound from a national economic recession.

“We are disturbed that the amount of toxic chemicals released into Maine’s air, waters and land has increased, particularly at a time when industrial facilities in other New England states managed to decrease their toxic pollution,” said Judy Berk, spokeswoman of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, shortly after the report was released Monday. “While we have not had time to review the new data in depth, we do know that toxic pollution may seriously harm to the health of Maine people and wildlife. We urge the EPA, DEP and Maine businesses to do better, and go all out to reduce the use and release of toxic chemicals throughout Maine and the nation.”

John Williams, president of the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, said the industry produces the highest number of toxic emissions because it is the biggest manufacturing industry.

“I would believe that the emissions are a little bit higher because as we’re coming out of the recession the mills have been producing a lot of pulp and paper,” he said. “There really haven’t been any significant changes in the practices in the mills.”

Williams said the overall trend in the industry has been toward cleaner discharges, with environmental laws leading to investments in technologies that clean air and water emissions of pollution as they leave the paper mills.

“Our mills have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in pollution control equipment,” he said. “The days of our heavily polluting mills are long behind us.”

He said Maine’s environmental laws are among the toughest in the country.

In response to the release, Sappi spokeswoman Joanna Rieke said in a prepared statement that the company is in compliance with all municipal, state and federal rules.

“The law requires reporting on these substances even if they are not particularly hazardous in the form they are released,” she said. “And even if they are present at very low levels, including materials that are sent to our onsite secure landfill.”

(Continued on page 2)

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