Toxins in S.J. decline over past decade

Toxins in S.J. decline over past decade

Source: The Record (Stockton, CA), February 18, 2014
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Toxic emissions reported to the Environmental Protection Agency remain near historic lows in San Joaquin County, according to data released this month.

The level of emissions reported in 2012 — the most recent year data are available — was less than 100,000 pounds for the second year in a row, although emissions increased slightly from 2011.

For perspective, 10 years earlier, 659,963 pounds were released into the environment.

Tighter restrictions and poor economic conditions have been cited as reasons for the long-term decline. Some older and dirtier factories and power plants have shut down in recent years as the state invests in newer, cleaner energy sources.

What do the numbers mean?

First, let’s talk about what they don’t mean. The EPA is not saying these facilities are endangering public health. Rather, the data are intended to give the public a general idea about which facilities are releasing chemicals into air, land or water, and where those facilities are located.

What about other pollution sources?

The data look only at stationary polluters of a certain size. There are many smaller businesses that contribute to the region’s pollution problems. And if you drive a car, you’re culpable as well — tailpipe emissions account for 80 percent of the Valley’s pollution.

What do the 2012 data show?

J.R. Simplot, which makes fertilizer at its Lathrop plant, was the top polluter with 66,776 pounds of pollution reported. That’s up from 9,315 pounds the previous year.

Two larger polluters — the Stockton CoGen and the POSDEF coal power plants — have shut down in recent years, contributing to the overall decline.

An even broader perspective: In 1992, San Joaquin County businesses reported more than 2 million pounds of emissions.

In 2012, that number was 98,020 pounds.

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