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Mount St. Helens the state's No. 1 air polluter
Seattle Times ^ | Dec 1, 2004 | Sandi Doughton

Posted on 12/01/2004 2:59:39 PM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection

Environmentalists hooted when Ronald Reagan claimed — wrongly — that trees produce more pollution than cars. But right now, the biggest single source of air pollution in Washington isn't a power plant, pulp mill or anything else created by man.

It's a volcano.

Since Mount St. Helens started erupting in early October, it has been pumping out between 50 and 250 tons a day of sulfur dioxide, the lung-stinging gas that causes acid rain and contributes to haze.

Those emissions are so high that if the volcano was a new factory, it probably couldn't get a permit to operate, said Clint Bowman, an atmospheric physicist for the Washington Department of Ecology.

All of the state's industries combined produce about 120 tons a day of the noxious gas.

The volcano has even pulled ahead of the coal-fired power plant near Centralia that is normally the state's top air polluter. In the mid-1990s, when the facility's emission rate was about 200 tons a day, regulators pressed for $250 million in pollution controls to bring it down to today's level of 27 tons.

Government doesn't wield much power over a volcano, though.

"You can't put a cork in it," said Greg Nothstein, of the Washington Energy Policy Office.

Because the area around St. Helens is so sparsely populated, officials say they haven't heard complaints about respiratory problems linked to the emissions. But if the volcano were right next to Seattle or Portland, some of the most sensitive residents would probably feel the effects, said Bob Elliott, executive director of the Southwest Clean Air Agency in Vancouver.

"We are very fortunate, in terms of the impact on human health, that Mount St. Helens is pretty remote."

Italy's Mount Etna can produce 100 times more sulfur dioxide than Mount St. Helens — and sits in the middle of a heavily populated area. The volcano spawns acid rain and a type of bluish smog that volcanologists call vog, which can affect large swaths of Europe, said Terry Gerlach, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who studies volcanic gases.

Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island churns out 2,000 tons a day of sulfur dioxide when it's erupting, creating an acid fog that damages local crops. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines blew out so much of the gas that the resulting haze spread around the globe and lowered average surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere by nearly one degree.

Some localized impacts are probably occurring on a much smaller scale near St. Helens' crater, Gerlach said.

"If you were to go and collect rainwater just downwind of the volcano, I suspect you would see some acid rain."

Worldwide, sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanoes add up to about 15 million tons a year, compared to the 200 million tons produced by power plants and other human activities.

While the fraction due to volcanoes is small, it can have an impact, Gerlach said.

"You can't call it trivial, compared with human activity."

Volcanic gases bubble out of magma as it rises to the surface, and the amount and type of emissions depend on the chemical makeup of the molten rock. In addition to sulfur dioxide, volcanoes also release smaller amounts of other noxious gases, including hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen chloride.

And they churn out large quantities of carbon dioxide. Though not considered an air pollutant, carbon dioxide is the so-called greenhouse gas that's primarily blamed for global warming.

Compared to man-made sources, though, volcanoes' contribution to climate change is minuscule, Gerlach said.

Mount St. Helens produces between 500 and 1,000 tons a day of carbon dioxide, he estimates.

Nothstein, of the state energy office, says the Centralia coal plant puts out about 28,000 tons a day. Statewide, automobiles, industries, and residential and business heating systems emit nearly 10 times that amount.

On a global scale, the difference is even more dramatic, said Gerlach, who often gets calls from power-plant operators and oil-company executives who believe nature is just as responsible for global warming as man. His answer always disappoints them.

"I tell them the amounts don't even come close and I usually never hear from them again."

Worldwide, people and their activities pump 26 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, he said. The total from volcanoes is about 200 million tons a year — or less than 1 percent of the man-made emissions.

The irony of being surpassed by a volcano on the state's pollution source list hasn't escaped the folks at the Centralia power plant, owned by the Canadian firm TransAlta.

"I hope they're going to call Mother Nature and have her put some scrubbers on there," joked company spokesman Richard DeBolt.

In a way, that will happen, said Bowman, the Ecology Department atmospheric scientist.

As wet winter storms sweep through the area, the rainwater acts as a natural scrubber, washing the sulfur dioxide from the air.

And once the volcano stops erupting, the gas emissions will vaporize — but geologists say the current lava flows could continue for months, or even years.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Washington
KEYWORDS: airpollution; environment; ewackos; mtsthelens

1 posted on 12/01/2004 2:59:39 PM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

This is Bush's fault.


2 posted on 12/01/2004 3:00:44 PM PST by Conspiracy Guy (This space is available to advertise your service or product.)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

I believe RR said that trees produce more carbon dioxide.


3 posted on 12/01/2004 3:01:08 PM PST by Loyal Buckeye ((Kerry is a flake))
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

Good News, My wife thinks I am the #1 Polluter......:*)


4 posted on 12/01/2004 3:01:34 PM PST by cmsgop
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

But shouldn't the gub'mint be forced to fit a giant Fram air filter around it before we all DIE??!!


5 posted on 12/01/2004 3:01:46 PM PST by F16Fighter
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

It's Bush's fault.


6 posted on 12/01/2004 3:01:48 PM PST by SFC Chromey (Did 13 months in Iraq and of COURSE I voted for BUSH!)
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To: Conspiracy Guy

Yep, this is Bush's fault and McCain, environmentalist that he is, is probably booking himself on multiple Sunday shows to point this out.


7 posted on 12/01/2004 3:02:04 PM PST by Dolphy
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
Great Scott! Send a check to your nearest environmentalist wacko group. That's the normal response to such gibberish - and it's our only hope.
8 posted on 12/01/2004 3:02:21 PM PST by Jaysun (If you are what you eat then I'm cheap, fast, and bad for your health.)
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To: farmfriend; CyberCowboy777


9 posted on 12/01/2004 3:02:48 PM PST by Libertarianize the GOP (Make all taxes truly voluntary)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
It's a volcano.

Hm. Volcano...

Natural...

Nature...

Environment...

Deep pockets...?

Environmentalists...

Sierra Club! Let's sue the Sierra Club!

10 posted on 12/01/2004 3:02:59 PM PST by sionnsar († trad-anglican.faithweb.com † || Iran Azadi || All I want for Christmas is a legitimate governor.)
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To: F16Fighter

that is typical Rupublican corporate greed!

I think a hemp cloth filter would be sooo much more ecologically friendly. (sarcasm)


11 posted on 12/01/2004 3:03:30 PM PST by SFC Chromey (Did 13 months in Iraq and of COURSE I voted for BUSH!)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

This is my response to any talk of "global warming". How do we regulate the volcanoes?


12 posted on 12/01/2004 3:03:41 PM PST by MisterRepublican ("I must go. I must be elusive.")
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To: Loyal Buckeye
I believe RR said that trees produce more carbon dioxide.

terpenes...

13 posted on 12/01/2004 3:03:43 PM PST by sionnsar († trad-anglican.faithweb.com † || Iran Azadi || All I want for Christmas is a legitimate governor.)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

it killed spotted owls too.. fine the sucker


14 posted on 12/01/2004 3:04:01 PM PST by sdpatriot
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
"We are very fortunate, in terms of the impact on human health, that Mount St. Helens is pretty remote."

LOL!
Maybe people have learned not to live near volcanos...

15 posted on 12/01/2004 3:04:40 PM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

Let's send some green-peace crackheads to vandalise Mount St. Helens.


16 posted on 12/01/2004 3:04:52 PM PST by nanak (Tom Tancredo 2008:Last Hope to Save America)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
The volcano has even pulled ahead of the coal-fired power plant near Centralia that is normally the state's top air polluter.

I drive by there all the time and have never noticed this power plant, or any trains loaded with coal.

17 posted on 12/01/2004 3:08:51 PM PST by wideminded
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To: Conspiracy Guy

"This is Bush's fault."

No, its that damn Halliburton! Cheney and Scalia were duck hunting in the area, and accidently shot the top off that damed volcano!



18 posted on 12/01/2004 3:09:31 PM PST by scottybk (Asking Americans to vote for Kerry on defense is like asking a chicken to vote for Colonel Sanders.)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
I live 50 miles s.e. of this evil polluter. I guess its time to sue somebody. But first I have to start an environmental advocacy group...Save Our Lungs. Just sign the checks and I will fill in the amount.
19 posted on 12/01/2004 3:10:18 PM PST by crazyhorse691 (We won. We don't need to be forgiving. Let the heads roll!!!!!!!!!)
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To: SFC Chromey
"I think a hemp cloth filter would be sooo much more ecologically friendly.(sarcasm)"

Without the sarcasm tag, the envirowackos actually might think it was do-able.

20 posted on 12/01/2004 3:21:39 PM PST by F16Fighter
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

Natural things by definition cannot pollute. The Hydrogen Sulfide gas coming out of Mt. St. Helen's is the Natural Kind, and different from the evil kind coming out of coal fired plants made by humans.


21 posted on 12/01/2004 3:23:02 PM PST by microgood
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
Reagan was right. Go here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1233890/posts

The last paragraph >>> Noting President Ronald Reagan's notorious 1980 reference to trees causing pollution (Reagan said: "Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation."), the authors conclude: "The results reported here call for a wider recognition that an understanding of recent, current and anticipated changes in biogenic VOC emissions is necessary to guide future air-quality policy decisions; they do not provide any evidence that responsibility for air pollution can or should be shifted from humans to....

22 posted on 12/01/2004 3:26:26 PM PST by narby
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
Jimmy Carter wanted to fly planes over Mt. St. Helens and dump American dollars on it to put out the eruption.

He wanted to have this great deed named "The Magma Carter".
23 posted on 12/01/2004 3:30:09 PM PST by HuntsvilleTxVeteran (Dan Rather called Saddam "Mister President and President Bush "bush")
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

??? ...More liberal B.S., How can nature pollute? ...its' nature, according Eviro-terrorists, only mankind pollutes.


24 posted on 12/01/2004 3:35:54 PM PST by skinkinthegrass (Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you :)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
This whole article bothers me on a few levels, this kind of
smells like a left wing enviro-wacko kind of press release.
First he goes out of his way to smack down Ronald Reagans
statement about trees, which as I remember had some basis in
truth.
Another thing that bothers me is the statement about the
coal fired power plant(Centralia). I don't live there, so I
do not know about that plant. The article states that the
plant puts out 28000 TONS of pollution a DAY. Even if those
evil plant operators have figured out a way to send 100% of
their fuel up into the air, does that plant really use
56 MILLION pounds of coal a day? Is none of it converted to
heat or ash?
As far as competing with volcanos for pollution bragging
rights, I seem to remenber that Mt. Pinatubo managed to smuck up the air around the world in about a month and a half. Something I don't think mankind could do even if we
tried.
25 posted on 12/01/2004 3:56:09 PM PST by ExSafecracker (Thank you Lord, for many prayers answered!)
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To: Darth Reagan

ping


26 posted on 12/01/2004 3:56:38 PM PST by marblehead17 (I love it when a plan comes together.)
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To: All

We need to use this to our advantage. I think we should start a movement that perhaps 2 or 3 million environmentalists chain themselves to trees on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens until it stops the poluting activity that is destroying our quality of life in this country. What do you think?


27 posted on 12/01/2004 5:19:17 PM PST by calex59
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection; abbi_normal_2; Ace2U; adam_az; Alamo-Girl; Alas; alfons; alphadog; amom; ...
Rights, farms, environment ping.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
I don't get offended if you want to be removed.
28 posted on 12/01/2004 8:41:31 PM PST by farmfriend ( In Essentials, Unity...In Non-Essentials, Liberty...In All Things, Charity.)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection; oregon; abcraghead; aimhigh; Archie Bunker on steroids; bicycle thug; ...

Oregon Ping

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Oregon Ping List.

29 posted on 12/01/2004 11:31:54 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: farmfriend

BTTT!!!!!!!


30 posted on 12/02/2004 3:07:34 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection
Mount St. Helens the state's No. 1 air polluter

Lock her up and throw away the key.

31 posted on 12/02/2004 3:48:49 AM PST by NautiNurse
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

If Nature does it, is it pollution..?


32 posted on 12/02/2004 3:55:08 AM PST by Puddleglum (Thank God the Boston blowhard lost)
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To: Dolphy

33 posted on 12/02/2004 4:46:08 AM PST by Conspiracy Guy (This space is available to advertise your service or product.)
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To: scottybk

You may be on to something there.


34 posted on 12/02/2004 4:46:43 AM PST by Conspiracy Guy (This space is available to advertise your service or product.)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

Maybe massive doeses of Beano?


35 posted on 12/02/2004 4:46:46 AM PST by mewzilla
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To: ExSafecracker
As far as competing with volcanos for pollution bragging rights, I seem to remenber that Mt. Pinatubo managed to smuck up the air around the world in about a month and a half. Something I don't think mankind could do even if we tried.

I say we try! On Tuesday, let’s all eat a couple of bowls of beans at 2400 GMT and see what happens.

36 posted on 12/02/2004 5:50:30 AM PST by ORECON (Condi Rice/Ann Coulter - 2008)
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

This is intolerable.

The government ought to crack down on such blatant polluters as Mount St. Helens.

When will we ever learn?


37 posted on 12/02/2004 5:52:46 AM PST by MWS
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To: Tumbleweed_Connection

In fact, I think we should beat the lefties to the punch and protest this atrocity ourselves.

It's the only way anything is going to get done.


38 posted on 12/02/2004 5:53:52 AM PST by MWS
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