Kimberly-Clark: We're trying

Vicky Newman-News-Herald

Representatives of Kimberly-Clark were in attendance Monday for a Loudon City Council workshop to discuss issues broached by the Loudon County Air Quality Task Force.

LCAQTF member Dr. Bud Guider addressed the council on behalf of the task force, asking city leaders to become more actively involved in efforts to reduce pollution.

"I've been on the task force since its inception and we've had issues many times," Guider said. "There have been many complaints about this plant. Originally, it was about fugitive dust that was not contained. To Kimberly-Clark's credit, they enclosed the area and solved it.

"They've done some nice things, but we've had continued complaints, particularly regarding emissions from the boiler smoke stacks," said.

Guider said his concern was for the health of Loudon County residents.

"It is known particulate matter inhalation can cause pulmonary and respiratory problems," Guider said. "The task force is strictly advisory. We have no authority to make decisions. Our charge is to advise what we feel is appropriate that needs to be done.

"We feel the task force has gone as far as it can go in this situation," he said. "Kimberly-Clark has tried to correct the problem, but the bottom line is it is not corrected and it's the citizens of Loudon that are suffering. We would like to see this resolved once and for all."

"I appreciate you being here," Mayor Judy Keller said to Mike Smith, Kimberly-Clark plant manager, and Bryan Crawford, plant safety engineer. "I know this is not easy for anybody, but we do have a common goal here. Let's keep working toward that goal together."

Smith noted that Kimberly-Clark strives to be a positive contributor in the community, providing jobs to the economy as well as making numerous charitable contributions.

"When we bought this property five years ago, it suffered tremendously," Smith said. "We spent millions of dollars and lots of resources and hours to make a significant impact on stack emissions. Now we are well within our permitted limits. That wasn't the case when we acquired the asset."

Smith said the opacity of emissions are at 5-7 percent of levels permitted by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the state regulatory agency.

Smith said he has been working with Mark Ludwig, the neighbor who reported the particle "snowing event." One such event was traced to a lightning strike that shut down measures in place to prevent emissions, he said.

"Notwithstanding, we've been running working trials with varying fuel mixes," Smith said. "We're still hearing that he is seeing it, so we are evaluating further modifications. This problem is not as straightforward as it might seem. We can't assume every bit of particulate is from Kimberly-Clark."

Smith said the boiler has been shut down for more than a week, and if that does not impact the particulate pollution problem, other potential solutions are being sought.

Guider pointed out that Loudon County is in nonattainment for PM 2.5 (Environmental Protection Agency regulations for particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller). "We need to do everything we can to reduce emissions," he said.

Smith said Kimberly-Clark meets TDEC regulatory requirements. "We have been working hard to minimize our emissions and the data shows we have made significant progress in the last five years."

Council member Lynn Millsaps asked Smith if he could return for the regular meeting Monday with a report on the effect of the offline boiler.

Guider said he did not come to the city to "beat up" on the industry.

"Kimberly-Clark has made a good effort to clean up and has been very responsive to the task force," he said. "Bryan keeps us abreast of their efforts. Our frustration is that it is continuing."

Guider also provided the board with new EPA research about the permitted emissions that will be increasing with the Viskase expansion. He said new research is being released about the toxicity of carbon disulfide and hydrogen sulfide. "Research shows the two chemicals have adverse effects on aquatic organisms. We at the task force have great concerns about it and we all should have concerns," he said.

Millsaps asked, "This expansion has been approved. TDEC is the regulatory council. What do you want us to do about it?"

"It's been my observation that when it comes to industry, governmental agencies have been less than quick to respond, for fear or stepping on industrial toes," Guider replied. "I believe you represent the people of the city of Loudon more than those entities and I believe with all my heart it is detrimental to the people in the city. I see it in my practice, tremendous increases in health problems. Something is happening. It is not all coming from industry. We're in a valley that's prone to pollution issues. But we do have point source issues."