Regional pollution down 4.5 percent

From staff and wire service reports

The amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment declined 4.5 percent in the eight-county southeastern Minnesota region in 2001, according to the federal government's latest inventory.

About 1.56 million pounds were released that year, down from 1.63 million pounds a year earlier, the Environmental Protection Agency reported.

The decline is in step with a statewide decline of 4.2 percent. Nationally, the release of toxic chemicals was down 13 percent. The figures were part of a report released Monday.

Linda Fisher, EPA's acting administrator, said the Toxics Release Inventory is one of the most important things EPA does. People can now see figures mapped by state and county on the Internet, she said.


Report data is posted at

Hard-rock mining companies and coal-burning power plants repeated their status as the biggest polluters.

By chemical, the most pollution came from hydrochloric acid and copper, zinc, lead, manganese, arsenic, nitrate and barium compounds. Sixty-nine percent of the chemicals went into the land, 27 percent into the air and 4 percent into the water.

Rochester Public Utilities' Silver Lake Power Plant was the largest polluter in the eight-county region, according to the report. The plant released 353,151 pounds of pollutants into the environment, most of it into the air.

The largest share of chemical emissions were hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, according to the report.

ADM, in Red Wing, was the region's second-largest polluter, at 251,780 pounds, all of it hexane, a solvent. Austin Public Utilities' Northeast Power Station, at 165,503 pounds, was third. Like RPU, it emitted mostly hydrochloric and sulfuric acids.

The biggest polluter in the state, according to the report, is an Xcel (then Northern States Power) power plant in Becker. The plant's chemical release totaled 7.3 million pounds.

The national report indicated an increase in dioxin, a chemical that is worrisome in even small amounts. Nationally, dioxin emissions increased to 328 pounds, up from 220 pounds the year earlier. No dioxin release was reported in southeast Minnesota. Dioxin released in the state totaled just over two pounds.


"The good news is that overall pollution has declined," said Jeremiah Baumann, an environmental health specialist for U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "But the bad news is that for some of the most toxic chemicals, we're seeing more, not less pollution."

EPA said mining of hard-rock minerals such as gold, silver, copper and lead made up the biggest portion, 45 percent, of all chemical releases. The industry was responsible for nearly 2.8 billion pounds of toxic pollutants in 2001 -- down from 3.4 billion pounds the year before.

Coal-burning, electric-generating plants were responsible for 17 percent of toxic pollutants in 2001. That was slightly more than 1 billion pounds, down from 1.2 billion pounds in 2000.

Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Alaska were the top four polluters, each reporting more than 500 million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2001.

Minnesota, at 33.4 million pounds, ranked 35th among 56 U.S. states and territories.

What To Read Next
Get Local