A Maryland State advisory board has recommended that state health officials adopt new regulatory controls limiting the amount of fluoride emissions from a Frederick County aluminum plant.
The regulation, if approved by Maryland health officials, would limit the Eastalco Aluminum Co. plant to 2.5 pounds of fluoride emissions for every ton of aluminum its smelting firm produces, said George Ferreri, director of the state air management administration.
It is estimated that Eastalco's Buckeystown plant produces 176,000 tons of the shiny metal annually. The proposed regulation would allow the plant to emit 1,205 pounds of fluoride daily.
The recommendation was made after officials of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted a regulation limiting the amount of fluoride that factories may emit in the atmosphere and ordered state governments to adopt similar regulations.
Under the regulation, Eastalco must pay an independent laboratory to test vegetation on 25 farms that surround the plant. Each month the laboratory reports its findings to the state. In addition, Ferreri said the state monitors vegetation and has a local veterinarian check cattle to see if any harmful pollutants are poisoning them.
Ferreri said Eastalco has thus far complied fully with state emission standards.
He said the state will require new aluminum factories to be tested daily at eight different testing sites to determine if the fluoride compounds are leaking into the atmosphere. But so far, the proposed regulation only applies to Eastalco, the only aluminum smelting firm in the state.
William Janson, Eastalco's technical superintendent, said the firm will meet the proposed standards.
A public hearing on the proposed regulation will be held in Frederick in September, state health officials said.
A representative of a citizens' group in nearby Adamstown said she was pleased about the advisory council's decision. Some residents have been concerned that the plant's air emissions might be harmful, and that a landfill on the plant site, laced with cyanide and fluoride residues, might affect their well water.
"We had been petitioning the state and EPA to pass such measures and we are quite happy they are listening to us," said Christy Carton.
Just three weeks ago, the Maryland Health Department issued a permit allowing the company to dispose of cyanide and fluoride residues at the landfill.
But the state, in an effort to ensure that any toxic chemicals would seep into a special collection pond for decontamination, ordered that the slope of the landfill be raised four feet above what the company had requested, moving it further from underground streams that feed the nearby wells of rural residents.