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Permit Allowed Illegal Mercury Discharges

Chemical Manufacturer Must Limit Mercury Discharges into Ohio River

CHARLESTON, WV -- August 18, 2006 -- A PPG Industries chemical plant in Natrium, West Virginia, must greatly reduce its mercury discharges into the Ohio River, according to an order by the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board. A two-year interim permit would have allowed PPG to discharge an amount of mercury that was 76 times the legal limit of 12 parts per trillion (ppt) set by an interstate water pollution control agency. However, the permit violates West Virginia and federal law and must be modified to meet the agency standard.

PPG was also ordered to use the current method of measuring mercury. The company had followed outdated procedures that could not detect any mercury below 200 ppt. This allowed PPG to avoid detecting mercury concentrations that were well above the legal limit.

PPG's History of Mercury Pollution

A manufacturer of paints, coatings and chemicals, PPG is also one of the major mercury polluters in the country. "For decades, PPG's outdated plant has pumped toxic mercury into the Ohio River, which our families use for fishing and water sports," said Liz Garland, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition (Press Release, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice). "It's about time the state forced PPG to clean up its act."

Mercury can accumulate in aquatic plants and fish in mercury-laden rivers. Eating mercury-contaminated fish can be harmful, especially for pregnant women. Mercury damages the nervous system and may cause birth defects. Women exposed to high levels of mercury during pregnancy have greater risks of having children with developmental problems, including mental retardation, lack of coordination, and delays in learning (Mercury, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry).

Environmental Law Cases

Trial Lawyers for Public Justice(TLPJ) had challenged the PPG permit on behalf of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. You can find the full text of the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board order modifying the permit on the TLPJ web site. You will need to obtain a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this file. If you do not already have this software, you may download a free copy at the Adobe Acrobat web site.

TLPJ is a national public interest law group dedicated to using trial lawyers' skills to advance the public good. Brayton Purcell is a proud supporter and member of TLPJ. Our firm's founding and senior partner, Al Brayton, serves as president of the TLPJ Foundation, a nonprofit membership organization that supports TLPJ's cases and educates the public about important issues.

If you have an environmental concern, please feel free to contact Brayton Purcell. We will review your case and advise you of your legal options. We have been successfully representing clients for over 20 years. See Our Court Record for more information.

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