New Boston plant cited for emissions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 1999

New Boston – Changes in production have already started at the New Boston Coke Corp.

Thursday, December 09, 1999

New Boston – Changes in production have already started at the New Boston Coke Corp. after the State of Ohio filed a lawsuit and secured a preliminary injunction against the company for emissions violations earlier this month. The action required the company to take immediate steps to reduce high levels of benzene emissions from its coke oven battery in New Boston, which is in Scioto County.

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"I believe they have already made their operational changes," said Carol Hester, spokesperson for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. "The interim step, which is boiling off gas in a boiler instead of venting it to the outdoors is fairly easy to do. Currently, it’s going through a stack without any controls."

Although the problem was discovered recently, EPA officials are uncertain how long the emissions have been a problem in the area, Ms. Hester said.

"The unit was put in in the early 1990s," she said. "It wasn’t until 1998 that we first became aware there were emissions coming out of this unit. Previously reported, there were not. The numbers changed in 1998. We were asked to do a test and the test results came back with high levels of benzene emissions. It could be a period of several years in the 1990s that the emissions were a problem."

The emission level in the New Boston area has risen to a point where EPA officials say there is a possibility of 2.2 excess cancer cases per 1,000 in the immediate area.

Per 100,000 people, that is 219 possible cancer cases from solely environmental sources more than that found in large, urban industrial areas, Ms. Hester said.

That number is a highly conservative estimate and relies upon how direct and how continuous exposure was, though, said New Boston Coke officials.

"The health risks reported by Ohio EPA are overstated," a report issued by the company stated. "Ohio EPA admits this. In its New Boston Air Quality Study 1999, Ohio EPA states that ‘assumptions made during a risk assessment tend to be conservative in order to ensure that the actual risks will be no greater than the estimated risk. In fact, the actual risks will likely be less than those estimated in this study.’" The company is taking the threat seriously, however.

At the first of the month, New Boston officials entered into an agreement with Ohio EPA officials to expedite the company’s plans to install a flare on the bleeder vent.

This flare must be installed by Dec. 24, according to the agreement. Failure to install the flare will result in penalties of $15,000 a day, Ms. Hester said.

New Boston also has taken immediate actions to minimize emissions from the bleeder vent until the flare is installed, corporate officials reported.

"In particular, New Boston is combusting more clean coke oven gas at its boiler house, thereby producing excess steam that is being vented to the atmosphere," the report read.

The company also is re-testing emissions to verify the EPA’s results.

"New Boston tested emissions from this vent earlier this year, but believes that data gathered during that test was artificially high as a result of atypical plant operations during the test," according to the report. "As of (Dec. 2) environmental consultants were on-site at the plant preparing to conduct further testing of the vent to obtain more accurate data."

The company also must monitor and record its coke oven gas emissions daily until the flare is installed, EPA officials reported.

Weekly status reports on the emission amounts must be submitted to Ohio EPA and the Portsmouth Local Air Agency.

Ohio EPA also will increase the frequency of the outdoor air monitoring over the next several months. They will monitor the air every six days rather than every 13 days to assess the success of the company’s control measures in improving outdoor air quality to acceptable levels, Ms. Hester said.