Toxic Pollutants in 'Chemical Valley'
Peterson, Ivars, Science News
West Virginia's Kanawha River tumbles through one of the most highly industrialized valleys in the United States. Almost 200 facilities, including several giant chemical plants run by major producers such as Union Carbide Corp., dot this long narrow "Chemical Valley," as it is known locally. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a study suggesting that the 220,000 people living in the valley are not adequately protected from toxic pollutants in the air and water.
This study, started in July 1983 and completed a year later, focuses on the chronic release of various hazardous substances from area plants and abandoned waste dumps. Although substantial improvement has occurred since 1977 when the last study was done by EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center, the report says, "Toxic substances continueto be released to the environment in wastewater discharges and air emissions and are present in large volumes in hazardous waste disposal sites." Furthermore, it states, "Toxic substances in the air pose potential health risks at some locations under adverse meteorological conditions."
The EPA report, however, says nothing about episodic releases of toxic substances, which have also become a major concern in the area. Since last December, a great deal of attention has focused on the Union Carbide chemical plant in Institute, W. …