Sunday, October 28, 2012

A cold, rainy day

It was chilly and wet this morning, leading me to think it had been a while since I had taken my camera to the Ohio River bank in such weather. So away I went. Here are a few of the pictures I got.

First, the street leading to the boat ramp and park at the mouth of the Guyandotte River, as seen through the windshield as the traffic light changes from red to green.

The mouth of the Guyandotte.

The East End bridge as seen through trees that are about to lose their leaves.

The East End bridge as seen from the mouth of Indian Guyan Creek in Ohio.

Coal barges, with their colors enhanced by rain.

The M/V Jean Akin, pushing the barges.

And downtown Huntington.

In the news, 10/28/12

Catching up on a few recent news items related to the Ohio River:

Bugs: For years, biologists have analyzed fish tissue to gauge the water quality in rivers. But in the Ohio River, researchers are now looking at bugs, too.

A couple of years ago, I was talking with someone from ORSANCO about their fish surveys, and I was asking about research into populations of smaller critters in the river. I forget his answer, but it's interesting to hear that it's going on.

My only problem is when this article says an abundance and diversity of mayflies means the ecosystem is healthy. I really, really don't like those things.

Monitoring: The West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University, with the help of the Colcom Foundation, is expanding its successful Monongahela River water quality
monitoring program to include the upper Ohio and Allegheny rivers.

Mercury: Finally, here's a piece I did about ORSANCO's vote earlier this month to allow a chemical plant in northern West Virginia to continue to use a mixing zone in the Ohio River for its mercury discharges, and how ORSANCO sort of expects other companies to apply for exemptions to the no-mixing-zone rule. I can't find the article on the Internet for posting a link, so here is the text

PPG's chemical factory in Marshall County could be the first of several industrial installations along the Ohio River to receive variances from a rule banning the use of mixing zones to dilute bioaccumulative materials.

"We suspect that there are other dischargers who will need to apply for variances. We just haven't received any yet," said Peter Tennant, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

ORSANCO is the water pollution control agency for the Ohio River and its tributaries. It represents the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, New York and Virginia, along with the federal government.

At a meeting in Louisville, Ky., earlier this month, commission members voted unanimously to grant the five-year variance regarding PPG's discharge of mercury.

"They applied for it and complied with all the information requests the commission made, Tennant said. PPG would have had difficulty meeting discharge standards given the technology used at its plant at Natrium, and there are other problems on the site that contribute more mercury to the river than the production process, Tennant said.
"Overall, what the commission is asking for is a greater overall reduction in mercury from the site than what would be achieved with more treatment," he said.

PPG Industries' plant at Natrium, near the Wetzel County line, manufactures about 995 tons of chlorine per day from brine. The plant uses two types of production technology: three diaphragm cell circuits and one mercury cell circuit. The mercury cell process utilizes elemental mercury to produce chlorine and high-strength, high-purity sodium hydroxide.

Tennant said not all the mercury that is discharged Natrium comes from the production process. The plant is on an old site, and various contaminated areas could be contributing mercury to the discharge, he said.

The ORSANCO rule banning the use of mixing zones takes effect Oct. 16, 2013.

ORSANCO's variance came with six conditions:

The commission's regulations must be met at all points in the river outside of a small area of mixing.
PPG has developed a comprehensive mercury reduction plan, which must be fully implemented.
PPG is required to conduct monthly water quality monitoring and annual fish tissue monitoring to demonstrate compliance with the commission's regulations.
PPG is required to submit annual progress reports to the commission to demonstrate full implementation of its mercury reduction plan and compliance with all requirements of this variance.
The commission reserves the right to modify, renew, or revoke the variance at its discretion at any time.
The variance will not interfere with West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's authorities.

After ORSANCO granted the variance, PPG issued the following statement:

"PPG is pleased that ORSANCO has elected to grant a variance allowing a mixing zone for mercury discharges from the Natrium chlor-alkali and derivatives plant effective October 2013. Granting the requested variance allows PPG to continue operating all of the chlor-alkali circuits at the Natrium plant while protecting the water quality-related interests of ORSANCO and affected states.

"PPG has clearly demonstrated commitment to protecting human health and the environment. PPG has substantially reduced mercury emissions from the Natrium plant, and, in fact, has cut mercury water emissions by 70 percent since 2006, including a 42 percent reduction from 2010 to 2011. In addition, PPG has committed to a detailed five-year mercury concentration reduction plan which will result in continued reduction in mercury concentrations in the PPG Natrium water discharge.

"The PPG Natrium plant has been in operation since 1943 and is a major employer in the Ohio Valley, employing more than 500 people. The site manufactures chemicals, primarily chlorine and caustic soda, which have a wide variety of end-uses including water purification, paper and plastics production and as key building blocks for pharmaceuticals."

On July 19, PPG announced that its board of directors had approved definitive agreements under which PPG will separate its commodity chemicals business, which includes the Natrium facility, and merge it with Georgia Gulf Corp. or one of its subsidiaries. Following completion of the transaction, which is expected to occur in late 2012 or early 2013, the combined company is expected to have annual revenues of approximately $5 billion and be the third largest chlor-alkali producer and second-largest vinyl chloride monomer producer in North America.