Tampa Electric Co. says the amounts of toxic chemicals its power plants released into the environment last year pose no health risks – although some environmental groups dispute that.
The information reported by TECO marks the first year utilities have been required to file a Toxics Release Inventory to the Environmental Protection Agency. The report, which manufacturing plants have been required to file since 1986, looks at 650 chemicals.
“When these numbers go out…they look so big and they look pretty scary,” said George Gray, deputy director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis – which did an independent study of U.S. power plant emissions. “In my examination of the potential risk that might be posed from these emissions from power plants, frankly, they’re tiny.”
Gray said the risks are negligible, even for someone who lived next to a power plant outdoors for 70 years. He said most people are exposed to more pollution driving a car.
Gail Kamaras of the Legal Environmental Assistance Fund said though she respects a Harvard-sponsored study, it may not include human exposure to multiple chemicals at once.
“People get sick and people die from these toxins,” added M.J. Williamson with the Florida Consumer Action Network in Tampa. “That’s scary but that’s real.”
Florida Power Corp. and TECO both reported their results to the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday, the deadline. The EPA will issues its national report in several months.
TECO, the state’s third-largest electric utility, made its results available to the public Friday on its Web site.
TECO had reportable amounts of emissions of 13 substances from five plants: Polk Power Station in Polk County; Big Bend Station in south Hillsborough County; Gannon Station near the port; Hookers Point and Phillips Station, two small plants.
Appearing in the largest quantities were three chemicals: hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride and sulfuric acid, all produced when coal is burned. For example, last year 7 million pounds of hydrochloric acid were produced at the Gannon plant, which burns coal.
TECO’s largest power plant, Big Bend, produced less than its second-largest plant, Gannon, because half the Big Bend is equipped with special pollution-reducing scrubbers.