PLANT CITY – A new monitor has not detected toxic hydrogen fluoride in the air around Coronet Industries, officials said Wednesday.
Hydrogen fluoride is of particular concern because Coronet discharges about 33 tons per year from its smokestacks and holding ponds. The chemical is harmful to humans even in small quantities, said Jerry Campbell, air management director for Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission.
The monitor has been used off and on since October in neighborhoods around the phosphate processor, county officials said.
The county has been monitoring heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and chromium in the Coronet area since August. But those monitors couldn’t detect hydrogen fluoride, so the county borrowed the $110,000 Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometer from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The county also rented, at a cost of $4,000 per month, an ultraviolet differential optical absorption spectrometer that monitors other harmful chemicals.
The monitors were used to measure not only hydrogen fluoride but also methane, styrene, ammonia, xylene, toluene, mercury, sulfur dioxide, mercury and benzene.
EPC officials on Wednesday showed off the two monitors, which are mounted in a trailer so they can be transported to different locations. The monitors have been used about 15 times since October and have not detected levels of pollution greater than those found elsewhere in the county. They haven’t detected any hydrogen fluoride, said Leroy Shelton, assistant director of the EPC air management division.
“So far we haven’t found anything we attribute to Coronet Industries,” he said.
Last week, the monitors were used for a 24-hour stretch because some residents say the plant appears to be in highest production at night, Shelton said. The overnight monitoring didn’t detect any spike in pollution levels, he said.
Hydrogen fluoride is released as Coronet makes animal feed supplement, Campbell said. Phosphate is heated in kilns. Impurities are released as gases that go through pollution-control equipment, but not all of it is removed, he said. Some of the hydrogen fluoride is released from the smokestack and some is released from the holding ponds, he said.
The company released a written statement Wednesday saying it has welcomed EPC’s findings.
“Coronet Industries is pleased – but not surprised – by the reassuring EPC test results released today for the neighborhoods surrounding the plant. The company works hard to exceed local, state and federal standards. The company is also making further enhancements to its air quality systems under an agreement with the county,” the statement said.
The statement said the company doesn’t think its plant presents a public health risk, and it wants to continue to work with government regulators.
Coronet Industries is pleased that the mounting scientific evidence indicates that the plant does not pose a risk to the community, the statement said.
Also on Wednesday, county water department director Michael McWeeny updated county commissioners on a proposal to extend water lines into the Coronet area. The county is looking at running water lines past about 150 homes near the factory, he said. The county is considering the proposal because 41 households near the factory are drinking bottled water because their wells are tainted with wastes such as boron, arsenic and lead.
McWeeny said it’s too early to say how much it would cost to extend the lines.