after an annual environmental open house at Alcoa's
Warrick Operations a few months ago, I received the
company's environmental report for 1999. It is
a colorful, attractive brochure with lots of
pictures put together by a local public relations
report is intended to highlight the means by which
the company was attempting to reduce harmful air,
water and solid-waste emission from the various
pages contained graphs almost too small to read and
which attempted to show how the plant has made
serious reductions in emissions of chlorine (a
toxic, gaseous puri8fying agent used in aluminum
smelting) in water excursions(the plant recently
spent $11.5 million for a new wastewater treatment
system) and in toxic spills on the plant site.
There have also apparently been major reductions in
solid-waste depositions in local landfills with some
attention paid to reducing diatomaceous earth and
waste wax, and to recycle "spent furnace
refractory." a technical way to say the company is
recycling fire bricks in many of its ovens.
the company's credit, the Warrick County facility
was awarded the Governor's Award for Excellence in
Recycling in 1996.
did not attend the open house, but a number of my
friends who did were reluctant to criticize Alcoa's
emissions record and they claimed that corporate
officials were very candid and open about discussing
their "reduce, reuse and recycle" ethic in play for
the past several years.
Having learned this, I contacted Mike Belwood, a
former Evansville Courier employee who handles
public relations for the company.
met for lunch and during our meeting, I told him I
wanted to write a laudatory article about Alcoa and
its efforts to reduce emissions. I told him my
primary reason for doing this was the enormous
toxic-pollution situation at General Electric
Plastics in Mount Vernon.
convinced that industrial emissions throughout the
Tri-State are having a significantly negative impact
upon the public health of the region.
was cited as the 13th largest emitter of
cancer-causing toxic chemicals in the country by the
Sierra Club, which used 1996 Toxic Release Inventory
(TRI) data reported to the Environmental Protection
Agency (the map is available on the Internet at
released more than 1.3 million pounds of carcinogens
and contributed mightily to the more than 10 million
pound of industrial carcinogenic chemical released
statewide, ranking Indiana second only to Texas in
After our luncheon, I began looking at Alcoa's TRI
data for the past few years and found myself
perplexed. Despite the company's admissions
and efforts, total environmental releases of
potentially hazardous chemicals were up in 1997,
reported to be some 2.6 million pounds, up a little
more than 300,000 pounds over 1996.
While the Warrick operations made great strides in
reducing off-site transfers of solid wastes to local
landfills -- down to 598.518 pounds from 1.3 million
pounds the previous year -- its overall air
emissions were up 108,219 pounds in 1997, from
2.257 million pounds to 2.360 million pounds.
These data do not take into account the additional
air and water emissions coming from the coal-fired
power plants operate by SIGCORP nearby, one of which
Alcoa owns half.
Overall, the Sierra Club states that because of
Alcoa's emissions, Warrick County continues to
rank in the top 10 per cent of all counties in the
country for total environmental releases and holds
the same distinction for non-cancer-causing air and
data reveal that Alcoa has a long way to go before
its environmental efforts can truly be commended.
The company deserves high marks and praise for being
open and candid about its efforts with the
environmental community, a tendency of which other
corporate facilities in the area -- particular GE --
should take note.
is high time that the public health dangers of the
pollution put out by corporations across the state
of Indiana became the No. 1 political issue in this
Readers, if there has been a cancer death in your
family, it is time to start opening your mouths as
the general election approaches.
David Coker of Evansville is a free-lance writer.