Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2005, 11:00 pm

Pollutants foul Q-C air

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By Rita Pearson,

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Photo: Todd Mizener
Nichols Aluminum Casting in Davenport was one of Scott County's top ten biggest polluters in 2002, according to the pollution information Web site, which analyzes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

The air Quad-Citians breathe contains many known cancer-causing pollutants, but companies say they are working on environmentally friendly solutions for their workplaces and the community.

According to an environmental watchdog group, Rock Island County was the eighth worst county among 102 in Illinois for air emissions. Whiteside County was 65th in the state, Henry County 69th and Mercer County 78th.

The pollution information Web site,, provided the analysis and rankings of U.S. factories based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data for 2002. The EPA collects data on the toxic chemicals released by factories throughout the United States.

Scott County was the ninth worst county among 79 counties in Iowa for air emissions, while Muscatine County was the fourth worst.

None of the Quad-Cities area counties were among the top 100 worst air emissions counties in the United States.

The EPA, however, has rated air in the metro Quad-Cities in the worst 5 percent in the nation in terms of potential health risks from industrial air pollution.

Dimethyl sulfate was the top cancer-causing pollutant emitted from Rock Island County factories in 2002, said. Tetrachloroethylene was the major cancer-causing air pollutant in Scott County for the same period.

Alcoa Inc.'s aluminum casting plant in Riverdale was the top polluter in Scott County, according to From 1988 to 2002, Alcoa decreased its air emissions by 94 percent by reducing the amounts of hydrochloric acid, tetrachloroethylene, zinc compounds, chlorine, copper and lead compounds used.

Alcoa made the improvements by almost eliminating chlorine from the ingot process and drastically reducing the use and emissions of perchlorethylene, a metal-cleaning solvent, and recapturing 98 percent of it in a vapor collection system, said Alcoa spokesman John Riches.

Other solvent emissions were eliminated when Alcoa Davenport Works ended foil production in the mid- to late 1990s, Mr. Riches said.

Alcoa won Iowa's top environment award in 2004.

Alcoa invested $13 million to $14 million on a closed-loop water system to reduce its use of Mississippi River water, Mr. Riches said.

Deere & Co. was among the top 10 polluters in both Scott and Rock Island counties for its equipment operations in Davenport, Moline and East Moline, according to

Deere Harvester Works' nitrogen dioxide concentrations were among the highest in facilities in the United States in 1999, according to Total environmental releases at John Deere Seeding-Cylinder were among the worst in the nation in 2002, scorecard said. The Moline factory had high rates of cancer-causing chromium compounds and the non-cancer-causing pollutant trimethylbenzine.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden said it was expected the company would appear on the lists because Deere is one of the largest industries in both counties.

"We have in place environmental-management systems that enable the highest level of compliance," Mr. Golden said.

In 2003, Deere installed a new paint system in its seeding-cylinder operation that reduced emissions by 98 percent, he said.

Harvester Works no longer sprays paint on its products. Instead, components are dipped into the paint system, reducing the amount of paint in the air and in the exhaust system, Mr. Golden said. Deere's Quad-Cities locations use high-solid, low-solvent paints on all its products so that there are fewer emission overall, he said.

"We take environmental stewardship very seriously," he said. "We work hard and spend millions of dollars (on environmental remediation) and pay close attention to these lists."

Nichols Aluminum, a Quanex Corp. operation on Rockingham Road in Davenport, ranked fourth as a top polluter in Scott County in 2002 after the company increased its total releases to the environment by 41 percent from 1992 to 2002, data indicated.

A spokesman for Nichols Aluminum could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

BiState Regional Commission planning director Gena McCullough has been working with these Quad-Cities industries and is pleased with the results. Nichols Aluminum replaced a solvent with an organic-based product, and Kraft Foods made some improvements at its Oscar Mayer plant, she said.

"Overall, our industries have been making some environmentally friendly choices" that have improved air quality for their employees and the community, she said.

Top 10 Scott County polluters in 2002

1. Alcoa aluminum-casting operation near Riverdale

2. LaFarge Davenport Cement Co., Buffalo

3. MidAmerican Energy Riverside Generating Station, Bettendorf

4. Nichols Aluminum, Davenport

5. Arch Mirror North, Bettendorf

6. Kraft Foods' Oscar Mayer plant, Davenport

7. RV Hopkins Inc., Davenport

8. ACO YP Inc., Riverdale

9. Barton Solvents Inc. Bettendorf branch

10. Nichols Aluminum Casting, Davenport based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data

Top 10 Rock Island County polluters in 2002

1. IBP, now Tyson, Joslin

2. 3M, Cordova

3. CNH Case, East Moline (vacated August 2004)

4. John Deere Harvester Works, East Moline

5. John Deere Seeding-Cylinder, Moline

6. Engineered Polymer Solutions Inc. (dba Valspar Coatings), Moline

7. Rock Island Arsenal

8. R&O Specialties, Milan plant

9. Norcross Safety Products, Rock Island

10. Sandstrom Products, Port Byron based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data