October 13, 2004
Reports aren’t easy to track
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — Unlike the Ohio EPA, the Canton Health Department did not take at face value the Environmental Integrity Project’s assertion that most industrial reports of accidental emission are improperly reported, or not reported at all.
In its 215-page report titled “Gaming the System,” the environmental group said Marathon Ashland Petroleum’s refinery in Canton Township reported 12 accidental toxic releases in 2002 but included the amount of the emission in just four of the cases.
The Ohio EPA requires industrial facilities to report information about excess emissions of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and other pollutants.
The Canton Health Department contracts with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to monitor air emissions and inspect industrial plants in Stark County.
After a reporter questioned the department about the group’s Aug. 18 report, Canton officials went back and examined their records for the refinery. Dan Aleman, administrator of the Air Pollution Control Division, reported several weeks later that based on the review, Marathon properly reported the amounts.
The review showed that in five cases that the environmentalists declared went unreported, the refinery did report as required, Aleman said.
In three other cases, state rules did not require the company to report the amounts because the emissions did not result from an equipment malfunction.
Aleman said the environmental group “either could not find (the reported amounts), or they possibly misinterpreted what they were reading.”
He insisted the numbers were there all along.
“These are the facts,” he said. “ If this group wants to come in and check these numbers out, they’re welcome to do that.”
The company, which initially had no comment on the study, welcomed the local results.
“Marathon Ashland reports incidents to the Canton Health Department and to the Ohio EPA in accordance with the laws, and we make them aware of when we have malfunctions that require reports, and we follow up with estimates of emissions from those incidents,” company spokeswoman Angelia Graves said.
But the reports aren’t always easy to track.
It took Canton health officials about 16 hours to find the emissions amounts, Aleman said.
“We spent quite a bit of time on this,” he said. “Any lay person would have a difficult time finding something in a file just because of the terminology. ... This is not easy stuff to understand.”
Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said he could not dispute the Canton Health Department’s assertion. But he expressed surprise that it took two days to find the information.
“I guess if, in fact, the company supplied the data and gave them (the health department) the tonnage and amounts for these events ... then the problem is with the agency and less with Marathon,” he said.