Four area companies among top 10 in toxic-chemical releases in 2012

Greater Nashua leads New Hampshire in terms of high-paying manufacturing jobs, but an annual report from the federal EPA reflects that this economic strength can have a downside: Four of the 10 biggest polluters in terms of chemical releases are local manufacturers.

However, the annual Toxic Release Inventory carried good news overall, saying that total releases of pollutants throughout New Hampshire fell sharply in 2012, compared to 2011.

In 2012, 131 facilities in the state reported approximately 822,371 pounds of releases – a decrease of 62 percent.

The report does not indicate if the discharges are illegal, nor does it reflect the relative toxicity of different compounds. It is a very general measure of how well industry is doing in containing the materials that it uses in various processes.

The release data includes not only material released into the air, ground and water, but also pollutants shipped offsite to storage or recycling facilities.

By far, the most chemicals were released by the Merrimack Station power plant in Bow, including 200,000 pounds of sulphuric acid, a byproduct of burning coal.

The Toxic Release Inventory listed four local firms among its top 10 polluters, in terms of amount of various chemicals released into the environment in 2012:

No. 2 – Hendix Wire & Cable in Milford, a subsidiary of Marmon Utility, which makes copper and aluminum cables and wires. It was associated with the release of 161,911 pounds of chemicals, most of them in material sent to recycling facilities.

No. 7 – Nashua Corp. in Merrimack, a printing firm, associated with 21,372 pounds of chemicals.

No. 8 – Hitchiner Manufacturing in Milford, which makes metal parts using casting methods, 20,574 pounds.

No. 10 – Anheuser-Busch brewery in Merrimack, associated with 15,775 pounds of release. This was the one area location that saw a large increase; the previous year, it was No. 118 on the state list.

While some chemicals are familiar to the general public, such as lead and ammonia, many are more obscure with a variety of associated health issues, including the volatile organic compound acetophenone, and toluene, which is often associated with paint thinner.

Throughout New England, the report said, approximately 19.2 million pounds of chemicals were released in 2012, a reduction of about 500,00 pounds or 2.6 percent.

“The EPA believes in making accessible, meaningful information available so citizens can be informed about chemicals that may be found in our communities and neighborhoods,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “TRI data is fundamental to helping people protect the health of their families and themselves, and provides communities with valuable information on toxic chemical releases.”

Reporting includes information on chemicals released at a company’s facility, as well as those transported to disposal facilities off site. TRI data do not reflect the relative toxicity of the chemicals emitted or potential exposure to people living in a community with reported releases.

Facilities must report their chemical disposals and releases by July 1 of each year.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).