Yesterday, something compelled me to ride along the river – the Hiwassee River, up the road from our house. I can’t begin to count how many times I have crossed this bridge and have been reminded by the TDEC warning sign of the mercury contamination in this beautiful body of water. Or how many times I have watched (with disbelief) the people fishing, despite the warnings. Yesterday was no different. It always bothers me … and I’m sure you might be tired of me posting about it by now.
Last week, I attended a public hearing at our local Chamber of Commerce regarding a $41 million bond proposal for Olin Corporation through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. My friend Suzanne Wisdom from Oceana, along with several concerned residents (including myself) made comment for the record – if Olin was to receive this funding, it should be imperative that they commit to converting their plant to mercury-free technology.
The Chamber’s Industrial Development Board kindly told us that environmental issues did not factor into the issuance (or non-issuance) of this type of bond. Of course. But, as always, all we could continue to do was to speak out for the record.
Earlier today I received a phone-call from Suzanne … and it left me speechless. As of mid-day today, here is an excerpt from the official Press Release from Oceana:
Olin Corporation’s Two Dinosaur Mercury Plants Will End Mercury Use and Releases
in Tennessee and Georgia
Oceana Celebrates Olin’s Response to Community and Customer Demands
The Olin Corporation announced today it will convert its mercury-based chlor-alkali manufacturing plant in Charleston, TN to modern, mercury free technology and eliminate mercury from its plant operation in Augusta, GA. Oceana has been pushing for these actions since 2005. Olin’s plant in Tennessee is the largest remaining mercury-based chlorine plant of the four plants in the U.S. that had refused to make the switch to safer, more efficient technology.
In response, Oceana offers the following statement from Senior Campaign Director Jacqueline Savitz:
“This toxic, unnecessary practice was putting communities’ health at risk, and contaminating fish that could end up on dinner plates far from the plants themselves. Olin’s Tennessee plant was the largest and released the most pollutants of the remaining mercury-based chlorine plants. This shift will mean less mercury in the Hiwassee River, as well as in Charleston and the state of Tennessee,” added Savitz.
Olin’s announcement shows that even a large facility can shift to mercury-free technology in the time frame described in pending Senate legislation, which would require plants to shift to mercury-free production by 2015. Olin will easily meet that timeframe, committing to shift to cleaner production technology by 2012 in Charleston, TN. For that decision, we applaud them.
Finally, we are grateful that the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will help to make the Tennessee conversion possible.
Oceana Tennessee Field Organizer Suzanne Wisdom, who has worked long and hard to exert community pressure on Olin to switch, offers the following reaction:
“I am excited to hear that Olin’s plant will ‘Go Mercury Free,’ just as Oceana and thousands of Tennessee residents have urged them to do. I’m especially happy for the wonderful community of people who live near the plant. They have been the heart of this campaign and I know they are celebrating today,” said Wisdom.
And from the AP/Bloomberg this afternoon: “Olin plant will eliminate mercury in $160M upgrade”.
What can I possibly say???? Cause for celebration? Are you kidding?! ABSOLUTELY!
Most of all, I cannot begin to express my heartfelt gratitude to Suzanne Wisdom from Oceana – who has worked tirelessly for so many years on this issue … who has been an inspiration and provided much-needed encouragement and support to the concerned citizens throughout our community … and who I feel most privileged to consider my friend. Suzanne, you are my heroine! It’s definitely time to celebrate!!! 😀