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Polluters released 14 tons of chemicals in Ocean, Monmouth counties

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No more plastic bags and pizza boxes in Freehold Township recycling

Asbury Park Press

Above: Freehold and Howell ban plastic bags and pizza boxes in recycling containers.

Polluters released 27,800 pounds — or nearly 14 tons — of chemical waste into the environment in Ocean and Monmouth counties in 2018, most of it in the form of air emissions, according to new federal data showing mixed progress for the region. 

Chemical releases from factories and businesses in both counties dropped about 4,400 pounds between 2017 and 2018, but air emissions in Ocean County are on the rise, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data. 

In Monmouth County, air emissions have been declining since 2014, but not fast enough to offset the air pollution increases attributed to Ocean County’s factories, according to the EPA. 

The figures were released as part of the EPA’s latest Toxic Release Inventory reports, which tracked the disposal of more than 32 billion pounds of chemical waste across the nation in 2018.

The program monitors the release of 755 chemicals known to have “significant” or chronic affects on human health or the environment. The EPA’s data gives a partial snapshot of pollution, but doesn’t include emissions like greenhouse gases and chemicals from the transportation sector that create New Jersey’s smog problems. The data also has been criticized because they are only estimates self-reported by polluters.

Yet EPA administrators say the agency is working with companies across the nation to curb pollution.

“We remain committed to informing the public about the chemical releases in their communities to encourage industrial improvements in environmental outcomes,” Pete Lopez, administrator of EPA Region 2, said in a news release. EPA Region 2 includes New Jersey, New York, the Virgin Island, and eight federally recognized Indian nations.

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Around New Jersey, more than 6 million pounds of hazardous chemicals were released into the air, water and land in 2018, according to the EPA.

Although it was a slight increase from 2017, it represented a 60% drop from a decade ago when factories, power plants, refineries and other large businesses belched 15.9 million pounds of chemicals into New Jersey’s environment.

“The chemical manufacturing sector in (New Jersey and New York) continues to reduce its total quantity of toxics released, and this helps to protect our air, water and land for future generations,” Lopez said.

While progress has been made to curb emissions, New Jersey still ranked 12 out of 56 states and territories based on total toxic releases per square mile. 

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Smoke billows from a smokestack at the Exide Technologies plant in Muncie. (Photo: Jordan Kartholl)

In Monmouth County, production of hazardous chemical waste is down compared to a decade ago. But in Ocean County, this waste production has risen since 2012, according to the EPA. 

Most of the 1.1 million pounds of manufacturing pollution produced in both counties in 2018 was treated before release or recycled, according to the EPA. 

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In Monmouth County, the companies that emitted the largest volume of waste traced by the Toxic Release Inventory program in 2018 were:

  • Nestlé bottling plant, Freehold (4,438 pounds, of which 1,983 pounds were disposed of offsite).
  • Chemical manufacturer Prestone Products, Freehold (1,400 pounds). 
  • Naval Weapons Station Earl (656 pounds).

In Ocean County, the companies that released the highest volume of monitored chemicals were:

  • Automobile materials manufacturer Nitto, Lakewood (33,753 pounds, of which 28,651 pounds were released offsite),
  • Insulating materials manufacturer Alpha, Lakewood (29,712 pounds, of which 11,353 pounds were disposed of offsite),
  • Church & Dwight Co., Lakewood, a consumer goods manufacturer (589 pounds, nearly all of which were disposed of offsite).

“This years TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) data are a great example of how TRI reporting creates a strong incentive for companies to reduce pollution,” Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution assistant administrator,  said in a news release. “In addition to the TRI being an information resource for the public, TRI data help companies learn from each other’s best practices for reducing emissions and increasing source reduction.”

To view the Toxic Release Inventory Report for your neighborhood, visit www.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program.

Top chemicals emitted statewide in 2018 

NITRATE COMPOUNDS: 3,732,107 pounds — Eating food or drinking fluids that contain unusually high levels of nitrites can decrease the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to tissues.

AMMONIA: 414,400 pounds — Exposure to high levels of ammonia can be irritating to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs and cause coughing and burns.

SULFURIC ACID: 342,962 pounds — Breathing sulfuric acid can result in respiratory tract irritation. Drinking sulfuric acid can burn your mouth, throat, and stomach.

HYDROGEN CYANIDE: 260,660 pounds — Exposure to hydrogen cyanide can cause skin and eye irritation. More importantly, skin or eye absorption is rapid and contributes to systemic poisoning. 

N-HEXANE: 158,113 pounds — Breathing large amounts can cause numbness in the feet and hands, as well as muscle weakness in the feet and lower legs.

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Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers Brick, Barnegat and Lacey townships as well as the environment. She has worked for the Press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, aoglesby@gannettnj.com or 732-557-5701.

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