What is Coming Out of that Smokestack?
If you are driving around any heavily industrialized area a common sight are the towering smokestacks billowing plumes of smoke into the air. The immediate common sense response is to wonder how they still get away with that in this age. While industrial sources will typically tell you it is simply harmless vapors (if they respond to an enquiry at all) residents in surrounding areas often will have a different story. How, as the public, do we know what is coming out of all those smokestacks and what it is doing to the environment?
Signs to Look For
First, it is very possible that it is nothing more than vapor. That is the goal of the last 40 years of environmental regulation. There will always be heat as a byproduct of nearly any industrial process. This heat causes evaporation and gasses to be released. When the gasses or water vapor leave the smokestack the cooler air causes water to condense just like a cloud in the sky. If it is in fact properly cleaned, these emissions are nothing more than water vapor and would in fact be harmless. This is seldom the actuality. It is more common that it is mostly water vapor with “an allowable” amount of other gaseous emissions deemed acceptable by the regulatory agency.
A simple test, that requires no advanced testing and chemical analysis, is the look and odor. Water vapor is white. If it is grey, brown or black it obviously contains things besides water vapor. In addition, water vapor is odorless. A sulfur odor (like rotten eggs), methane smells, or other strong odor is a clear indicator of the presence of other chemicals in the emissions that are very common in industrial air pollution. The fact is, despite the concentrations meeting a regulatory requirement, the presence of the odor alone is in fact deteriorating the quality of the air to everybody that breathes it and defined as pollution.
What Can Be Done?
The control of both actual dangerous contaminants and noxious odors is easy to achieve. Chemical gas scrubbers like the ones produced by ERG Air Pollution Control are available to control the release of both particulates and the odors in industrial gas emissions. While the industry may not be lying about the process being natural, and it may even not have a known health risk, claiming that nothing can be done to correct it is a falsehood. By not only complaining about the emissions, but also reminding them of the known remedies for it that help both the environment and improve the air quality for those around an industrial area it makes it much more difficult to ignore the complains in the media.