SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Niagara Mohawk power plants spewed more than 5.78 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the environment in 1998, according to a report the utility filed with the federal government.
The toxic emissions, 97 percent of which came from the Huntley and Dunkirk coal-fired power plants near Buffalo, establish Niagara Mohawk as one of the leading polluters in New York state.
Niagara Mohawk reported the emissions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which for the first time is including utilities in its annual Toxic Release Inventory. Manufacturers and other companies are required to report their emissions of nearly 650 listed chemicals under a federal “right to know” law passed in 1984 following the chemical leak at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, that killed nearly 2,000 people.
Utilities had been exempted until now.
“These are not new emissions, but rather a new reporting requirement,” said Richard Ryczek, Niagara Mohawk’s vice president of environmental affairs.
All of the utility’s reportable emissions came from four fossil-fuel power plants. In addition to Huntley and Dunkirk, Oswego Steam Station and Albany Steam Station contributed some pollution.
Three of those plants have been sold to NRG Energy of Minneapolis, and the fourth is for sale, which means that this will likely be the first and last year that Niagara Mohawk submits the pollution report to the EPA.
In raw poundage, Niagara Mohawk’s biggest emissions consisted of so-called acidic gases. The utility released roughly 3.6 million pounds of hydrogen chloride, 1 million pounds of sulfuric acid mist and 500,000 pounds of hydrogen fluoride.
It also released 317 pounds of mercury emissions and 620,000 pounds of toxic metals.
In comparison, Eastman Kodak, the state’s top polluter, released 6.96 pounds of pollutants in 1997. Companies have until July 1 to report their 1998 toxic emissions. Niagara Mohawk reported its data early.