Chlorine factories a major source of mercury pollution, report says

A new study suggests that the chlorine industry may be releasing dangerously high amounts of mercury into the environment, more even than the coal-fired power plants usually pinpointed as major emitters. Although most chlorine plants use a production process that does not involve mercury, there are nine in the U.S. whose century-old methods involve pumping electrically charged salty water through a vat of mercury. A percentage of the mercury ends up unaccounted for, possibly “lost” into the air in emissions that go unreported, according to the study. Reported or not, those emissions add up. “The nine mercury-based chlorine plants in the U.S. may rival the entire power industry as the nation’s largest industrial mercury polluter,” the study charges. Oceana, the environmental group that released the report, called on the U.S. EPA to require the plants, located mostly in the Southeast and Midwest, to phase out their mercury-based processing equipment by 2008.