Ocean State Power’s Oil Burning Boosts Rhode Island's Chemical Emissions


Rhode Island was the only state in southern New England to see its emissions increase in 2015. Pollution went up primarily because the Ocean State Power facility in Burrilliville used oil fuel that year, according to state and federal records.

The fossil-fuel power plant mainly burns natural gas, but for a portion of 2015 the 560-megawatt power plant switched to oil. As soon as an energy facility burns oil, it must report all of its emissions for the year. Thus, ammonia, a main component in pollution-reduction systems, shot to the top of the list of pollutants for the year.

However, most of Rhode Island’s ammonia emissions go unreported because power plants such as the 450-megawatt Manchester Street Power Station in Providence and the 583-megawatt State Energy Center in Johnston only burned natural gas. Those facilities also use ammonia in their air-pollution cleaning systems, but since they didn’t burn oil in 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) didn’t require them to report ammonia emissions.

Rhode Island’s No. 2 chemical emitter was Newport Biodiesel Inc., according to the EPA’s most recent Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). The facility didn’t comply with air-pollution standards for its use of methanol. The company paid $396,000 in fines and in 2016 installed a new pollution control system to meet methanol emission standards.

Rounding out Rhode Island’s top 10 chemical emitters in 2015 were: Chemart in Lincoln, Providence Metallizing Co. Inc. in Pawtucket, Senesco Main Yard in North Kingstown, General Cable Industries LLC in Lincoln, ExxonMobil in East Providence, Dewal Industries in Narragansett, New England Union Co. Inc. in West Warwick, and Toray Plastics in North Kingstown.

During 2015, the latest year for which data are available, about 15 million pounds of chemicals were released in the six New England states, a reduction of about 1.3 million pounds — decreased by 8.3 percent — from 2014. During this period, total air emissions in New England were reduced by 9.4 percent, according to the TRI.

In Rhode Island, 88 facilities reported 460,542 pounds of chemicals released — an increase of 101,908 pounds, or 28 percent. The top 10 chemicals released by Rhode Island into the environment in 2015 were: ammonia, methanol, nitrate compounds, copper compounds, toluene, xylene, zinc compounds, n-butyl alcohol, antimony compounds and copper.

The EPA annually makes TRI data publicly available. The information is reported by industries throughout the United States regarding chemical releases to air, water and land by power plants, manufacturers and other facilities that employ 10 or more workers and which exceed thresholds for chemicals. Reporting includes information on chemicals released at a company’s facility and those transported to disposal facilities off-site. TRI data don’t reflect the relative toxicity of the chemicals emitted or potential exposure to people living in a community with reported releases.

Reporting under TRI also doesn’t indicate illegal discharges of pollutants.

In Massachusetts, 404 facilities reported about 3.4 million pounds of chemicals released — a decrease of 180,144 pounds from 2014, or 5 percent.

The 10 facilities that reported the largest quantity environmental releases in 2015 were: Solutia Inc., Springfield; Crown Beverage Packaging, Lawrence; Ineos Melamines, Springfield; Ideal Tape Co., Lowell; Supercon Inc., Shewsbury; Mystic Station, Charlestown; Acushnet Co. Ball Plant III, New Bedford; Duncan Group, Everett; Wollaston Alloys, Braintree; and GVS NA, Westborough.

The top 10 chemicals released into the environment were: zinc compounds, toluene, nitrate compounds, certain glycol ethers, n-butyl alcohol, ammonia, lead, chromium, hydrochloric acid, and n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone.

In Connecticut, 272 facilities reported about 1.5 million pounds of chemicals released — a decrease of 411,747 pounds, or 21.4 percent.

The 10 facilities that reported the largest quantity of environmental releases in 2015 were: Unimetal Surface Finishing LLC, Thomaston; Clean Harbors of Connecticut Inc., Bristol; Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford; Connecticut Galvanizing Corp., Glastonbury; GBC Metals LLC Somers Thin Strip, Waterbury; Allnex USA Inc., Wallingford; General Cable Industries, Willimantic; Stanley Works Hand Tools, New Britain; Ahlstrom Nonwovens LLC, Windsor Locks; and Unimetal Surface Finishing LLC, Naugatuck.

The top 10 chemicals released into the environment were: zinc compounds, nitrate compounds, dichloromethane, ammonia, copper compounds, ethylene glycol, methanol, certain glycol ethers, toluene, and nickel.