A Wilkinson County manufacturing plant may spend millions of dollars to stop pumping tons of excess sulfuric acid into the air each year.
CARBO Ceramics Inc. told the Georgia Environmental Protection Division about the pollution when the company discovered it, and the company has agreed to a $300,000 penalty, a consent order shows.
The penalty, however, may be just a small portion of the Toomsboro plants ultimate costs, said Karen Hays, program manager for the states stationary source compliance program.
Based on information they told us, it could be up to $3 million to install a treatment process called dry sorbent injection technology, Hays said Tuesday. With that technology, sodium- or calcium-rich minerals are ground into a powder and mixed with hot flue gas. The powder binds with acid gases such as sulfur dioxide through a chemical reaction, allowing them to be filtered out before the flue gas is released.
The Toomsboro plant runs under whats called a prevention of significant deterioration of air quality, or PSD permit, which would allow up to 7 tons of sulfuric acid to be emitted each year. Instead, just one of four production lines emitted an estimated 6.5 tons in a year, Hays said, making it likely the plant exceeded that rate significantly.
They were well over 7 tons, she said, possibly several times over the limit. The production lines are fairly similar and should emit comparable levels of pollutants, she said.
The consent order, signed Nov. 22, requires the company to design and install pollution controls with the dry sorbent technology for each of the four production lines. That equipment should be installed by the end of May, and the plant will then be limited to 7 tons of sulfuric acid emissions per year.
The companys current emissions permits control other chemicals, such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides. Sulfur dioxides can be converted in the atmosphere into sulfuric acid, which is a component of acid rain.
The company told the state about the sulfuric acid on Oct. 3, the consent order shows.
CARBO says it is the worlds largest manufacture of ceramic materials to keep hydraulic fractures open, allowing more oil and gas to be collected from wells.
In Georgia, the company has plants in Toomsboro, McIntyre and Millen.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.