Local air quality still hard to determine
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Kentucky ranks 10th in the nation for releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.
However, this ranking shouldn’t worry Christian County residents about the quality of the local air, as the state’s worst offenders, by and large, are power plants.
The nearest power plants to here are the Lake Barkley Power Plant and the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.
Earlier this month, the National Resources Defense Center named this state’s power plants the worst in the country for exposing residents to toxic air pollution.
For the toxic chemicals Kentucky releases in highest quantities — sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid — power plants dominate the list of worst culprits.
Three Kentucky counties that have power plants — Carroll, Jefferson and Muhlenberg — rank among the top 50 counties in the U.S. for the pollution they produce.
Christian County, on the other hand, is nowhere near the top of the list.
Christian County had 73 manufacturing facilities in 2010, which was the ninth highest number in the state, according to U.S. Census data. But it only ranked 24th out of 120 counties in toxic chemical output.
In a state with a fairly serious pollution problem, Christian County’s factories do not contribute significantly.
The Toxics Release Inventory of the Environmental Protection Agency contains exhaustive data from companies’ emission reports as recent as 2010. It shows that of the top 10 toxic chemicals that came from this state in 2010, Christian County did not contribute so much as a quarter percent of any of them.
Lead compounds were the 15th most prominent chemical from this state in 2010. Christian County made up for 10.47 percent of the state’s output, and it all came from a range facility at Fort Campbell, according to the inventory.
The facility released 152,644 pounds of the compounds. It also released 125,617 pounds of copper.
Xylene was the state’s 18th most prominent chemical in 2010. Christian County contributed 29.9 percent of the state’s output, and nearly all of that, 263,725 pounds, came from the T.Rad North America factory in Hopkinsville Industrial Park.
A manager at the factory previously told the New Era the xylene came from paint the factory no longer uses.
Other chemicals that ranked among the top emissions for Christian County included nicotine and salts from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco and dichloromethane, a solvent used in paint removers and as an aerosol propellant, from Ebonite International.
But because factory emissions are just one factor among many that determine air quality, it’s hard to determine precisely the cleanliness of Christian County’s air, said Roberta Burnes, the spokeswoman of Kentucky’s Division for Air Quality.
“Air quality is sort of constantly in flux,” she said.
Burnes outlined the other major sources of pollution: smaller commercial sources, such as auto shops and gravel pits; the number of vehicles on the roads; people burning trash; forest fires; organic compounds from plants; and wind that carries pollution from other counties.
The Division for Air Quality keeps track of the air quality in certain cities. It does not have a rating for Christian County. As for the closest cities, on Tuesday it rated Owensboro at 38 and Paducah at 44 out of 300. These count as “good” and “satisfactory” scores. Bowling Green rated an 81, considered “moderate” but with risks for those especially sensitive to air pollution, because of “fine particulates” in its atmosphere.
AIRNow, a service several government agencies collaborate to provide, reports that since 2008, Christian County has only had three “unhealthy days” for older adults and children, people with asthma and those who are active outdoors. It has had no unhealthy days for the general population.